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Full text of "The broad highway"

THE BROA 
HIGHWff 




!HF 




- 






EN 



BOSTON UNIVERSITY 

COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS 

LIBRARY 

From Nellie I. Simpson C.L.A. '94 



Ta.ttu.crH R9.1M7 



&4*+y\. 




IMH WI fflB i 



THE BROAD HIGHWAY 



JEFFERY FARNOL 

Blithe teller of gay, sunny tales of open roads and rural vales, 

long may you by the fireside stay, and charm the winter hours away ! 

I love your tinkers and your churls, your vagrants 

UNCLE and your rosy girls ; the atmosphere of farm and wold, 

WALT and woodlands flecked with autumn gold, and wayside 

SAYS: inns and village chimes, and customs of the old, dead 
times. And when, beside the inglenook, I take again 
your cheery book, I know I'll find no dismal page concerning problems 
of the age; no dismal message of despair, no dreary "purpose" lingers 
there; no analyst discusses crimes or brooding evils of the times. You 
do not pose and try to teach; your characters don't always preach; no 
uplift bores explain their dreams or rant a while on vital tbemes. You 
leave the sordid world behind, and take us from the beastly grind to 
rolling downs and rippling rills and sighing woods and verdant hills, 
where pansies pan and zephyrs zeph, and you're a peacherino, Jeff! 
— Walt Mason. i 

(Copyright, 1012, bj George Matthew Adams.) 



The Broad Highway 



By JEFFERY FARNOL 



Author of "The Money Moon," "My Lady Caprice, 
"The Amateur Gentleman," etc. 




With Four Illustrations in Color 
By C. E. BROCK 



A. L. BURT COMPANY 

Publishers Nkw York 



BOSTON UNIVERSITY 
COLLEGE- OF LIBERAL ARTS 
LIBRARY V* 



Copyright, 1911, 
By Little, Brown, and Company. 



All rights reserved 

Published, February, 1911 

Reprinted, February, 1911 (four times) 

March, 1911 (twice) ; April, 1911 

May, 1911 ; June, 1911 (twice) 
July, 1911 (twice) ; August, 1911 
September, 1912 ; October, 1912 
November, 1912 ; January, 1913 

February, 1913 ; May, 1913 
August, 1913; December, 1913 



A7B7 



TO 
SHIRLEY BYRON JEVONS 

THE FRIEND OF MY BOYISH AMBITIONS 

THIS WORK IS DEDICATED 

AS A MARK OF MY GRATITUDE, AFFECTION 
AND ESTEEM 

J. F. 



CONTENTS 

Pagf 

Ante Scriptum 1 

BOOK I 
Chapter 

I Chiefly Concerning My Uncle's Last Will and Testa- 
ment 5 

II I Set Out 17 

III Concerns Itself Mainly with a Hat 21 

IV I Meet with a Great Misfortune 26 

V The Bagman 29 

VI What Befell Me at « The WTiite Hart " 33 

VII Of the Further Puzzling Behavior of Tom Cragg, the 

Pugilist 41, 

VIII Which Concerns Itself with a Farmer's Whiskers and 

a Waistcoat 45 

IX In Which I Stumble upon an Affair of Honor ... 52 

X Which Relates the End of an Honorable Affair . . 60 

XI Which Relates a Brief Passage-at-Arms at "The 

Chequers" Inn 63 

XII The One-Legged Soldier ..74 

XIII In Which I Find an Answer to My Riddle ... 78 



viii Contents 

Chapter Pa»e 
XIV Further Concerning the Gentleman in the Bat- 
tered Hat 81 

XV In Which I Meet with a Pedler by the Name 

of "Gabbing" Dick 91 

XVI How I Heard the Steps of One Who Dogged 

Me in the Shadows 95 

XVII How I Talked with a Madman in a Wood by 

Moonlight 101 

XVIII The Hedge-Tavern 106 

XIX In W T hich I Become a Squire of Dames . . . Ill 

XX Concerning Daemons in General and One in Par- 
ticular 117 

XXI " Journeys End in Lovers' Meetings " . . . 121 

XXII In Which I Meet with a Literary Tinker . . 127 

XXIII Concerning Happiness, a Ploughman, and Silver 

Buttons 135 

XXIV Which Introduces the Reader to the Ancient . 138 

XXV Of Black George, the Smith, and How We 

Threw the Hammer 145 

XXVI Wherein I Learn More Concerning the Ghost of 

the Ruined Hut 164 

XXVII Which Tells How and in What Manner I Saw 

the Ghost 167 

XXVIII The Highland Piper 172 

XXIX How Black George and I Shook Hands ... 178 

XXX In Which I Forswear Myself and Am Accused 

of Possessing the « Evil Eye " . . . . . 184 

XXXI In Which Donald Bids Me Farewell .... 190 

XXXII In Which this First Book Begins to Draw to a 

Close 194 



Contents ix 

Chapter Page 

XXXIII In Which We Draw yet Nearer to the End of 

this First Book 203 

XXXIV Which Describes Sundry Happenings at the 

Fair, and Ends this First Book .... 207 

A Word to the Reader 219'' 



BOOK II — THE WOMAK 

I Of Storni, and Tempest, and of the Coming of 

Charmian 223 

II The Postilion 232 

III Which Bears Ample Testimony to the Strength of 

the Gentleman's Fists 236 

IV Which, among other Matters, has to do with 

Braises and Bandages 240 

V In Which I Hear 111 News of George .... 249 

VI In Which I Learn of an Impending Danger . . 25& 

VII Which Narrates a Somewhat Remarkable Conver- 
sation 263 

VIII In Which I See a Vision in the Glory of the Moon, 

and Eat of a Poached Rabbit 267 

IX Which Relates Somewhat of Charmian Brown . 27& 

X I Am Suspected of the Black Art 281 

XI A Shadow in the Hedge 288 

XII Who Comes ? 292 

XIII A Pedler in Arcadia . . 297 

XIV Concerning Black George's Letter 304 



x Contents 

Chapter Paoe 
XV Which, Being in Parenthesis, May be Skipped 

if the Reader so Desire 309 

XVI Concerning, Among Other Matters, the Price 
of Beef, and the Lady Sophia Sefton of 

Cambourne 311 

XVII The Omen 324 

XVIII In Which I Hear News of Sir Maurice Vibart. 332 

XIX How I Met Black George Again, and Wherein 
the Patient Reader Shall Find a "Little 

Blood" 341 

XX How I Came up out of the Dark .... 349 

XXI Of the Opening of the Door, and how Char- 

mian Blew Out the Light 356 

XXII In Which the Ancient Discourses on Love . 3o2 

XXIII How Gabbing Dick, the Pedler, Set a Hammer 

Going in my Head $68 

XXIV The Virgil Book 372 

XXV In Which the Reader Shall Find Little to do 

with the Story, and May, therefore, Skip . 381 

XXVI Of Storm, and Tempest, and how I Met One 

Praying in the Dawn 385 

XXVII The Epileptic 390 

XXVIII In Which I Come to a Determination ... 394 

XXIX In Which Charmian Answers My Question . 399 

XXX Concerning the Fate of Black George ... 408 

XXXI In Which the Ancient is Surprised . . . . 41 6 

XXXII How We Set Out for Burnham Hall ... 420 

XXXIII In Which I Fall from Folly into Madness . . 426 



Contents xi 

Chapter Page 
XXXIV In Which I Found Peace and Joy and an Abid- 
ing Sorrow 432 

XXXV How Black George Found Prudence in the 

Dawn 435 

XXXVI Which Sympathizes with a Brass Jack, a Brace 

of Cutlasses, and Divers Pots and Pans . 440 

XXXVII The Preacher 444 

XXXVIII In Which I Meet My Cousin, Sir Maurice Vibart 449 

XXXIX How I Went Down into the Shadows . . . 45S* 

XL How, in Place of Death, I Found the Fulness 

of Life 464 

XLI Light and Shadow 469 

XLII How Sir Maurice Kept His Word . . . . 478 

XLIII How I Set Out to Face my Destiny ... 483 

XLIV The Bow Street Runners 489 

XLV Which Concerns Itself, among other Matters, 

with the Boots of the Saturnine Jeremy . 492 

XLVI How I Came to London 499 

XLVII In Which this History is Ended ..... 510 



THE BROAD HIGHWAY 



ANTE SCRIPTUM 

As I sat of an early summer morning in the shade of a tree, 
eating fried bacon with a tinker, the thought came to me 
that I might some day write a book of my own : a book that 
should treat of the roads and by-roads, of trees, and wind 
in lonely places, of rapid brooks and lazy streams, of the 
glory of dawn, the glow of evening, and the purple solitude 
of night ; a book of wayside inns and sequestered taverns ; 
a book of country things and ways and people. And the 
thought pleased me much. 

" But," objected the Tinker, for I had spoken my 
thought aloud, " trees and suchlike don't sound very inter- 
estin' — leastways — not in a book, for after all a tree 's 
only a tree and an inn, an inn ; no, you must tell of other 
things as well." 

" Yes," said I, a little damped, " to be sure there is a 
highwayman " 

" Come, that ? s better ! " said the Tinker encouragingly. 

" Then," I went on, ticking off each item on my fingers, 
" come Tom Cragg, the pugilist " 

" Better and better ! " nodded the Tinker. 

" — a one-legged soldier of the Peninsula, an adventure 
at a lonely tavern, a flight through woods at midnight 
pursued by desperate villains, and — a most extraordinary 
tinker. So far so good, I think, and it all sounds adven- 
turous enough." 

" What ! " cried the Tinker. " Would you put me in 
your book then ? " 

" Assuredly." 



2 The Broad Highway 

" Why then," said the Tinker, " it 's true I mends kettles, 
sharpens scissors and such, but I likewise peddles books 
an' nov-els, an' what 's more I reads 'em — so, if you must 
put me in your book, you might call me a literary cove." 

" A literary cove? " said I. 

" Ah ! " said the Tinker, " it sounds better — a sight 
better — besides, I never read a nov-el with a tinker in it 
;as I remember ; they 're generally dooks, or earls, or barro- 
aiites — nobody wants to read about a tinker." 

" That all depends," said I ; "a tinker may be much 
more interesting than an earl or even a duke." 

The Tinker examined the piece of bacon upon his knife- 
point with a cold and disparaging eye. 

" I 've read a good many nov-els in my time," said he, 
shaking his head, "and I knows what I 'm talking of ; " here 
lie bolted the morsel of bacon with much apparent relish. 
" I 've made love to duchesses, run off with heiresses, and 
fought dooels — ah ! by the hundred — all between the 
covers of some book or other and enjoyed it uncommonly 
well — especially the dooels. If you can get a little blood 
into your book, so much the better ; there 's nothing like a 
little blood in a book — not a great deal, but just enough 
to give it a ' tang,' so to speak ; if you could kill your 
highwayman to start with it would be a very good begin- 
ning to your story." 

" I could do that, certainly," said I, " but it would not 
be according to fact." 

" So much the better," said the Tinker ; " who wants 
facts in a nov-el? " 

"Hum!" saidl. 

" And then again " 

" What more? " I inquired. 

" Love ! " said the Tinker, wiping his knife-blade on the 
leg of his breeches. 

" Love? " I repeated. 

" And plenty of it," said the Tinker. 

" I 'm afraid that is impossible," said I, after a moment's 
thought. 



Ante Scriptum 3 



" How impossible? " 

" Because I know nothing about love." 

" That 's a pity," said the Tinker. 

" Under the circumstances, it is," said I. 

" Not a doubt of it," said the Tinker, beginning to scrub 
out the frying-pan with a handful of grass, " though to be 
sure you might learn ; you 're young enough." 

" Yes, I might learn," said I ; " who knows? " 

" Ah ! who knows ? " said the Tinker. And after he had 
cleansed the pan to his satisfaction, he turned to me 
with dexter finger upraised and brow of heavy portent. 
" Young fellow," said he, " no man can write a good nov-el 
without he knows summat about love ; it are n't to be 
expected — so the sooner you do learn, the better." 

"Hum! "said I. 

"And then, as I said afore and I sa^ it again, they 
wants love in a book nowadays, and wot '£ more they will 
have it." 

"They?" saidl. 

" The folk as will read your book — after it is written." 

"Ah! to be sure," said I, somewhat taken abgck; "I 
had forgotten them." 

" Forgotten them? " repeated the Tinker, staring. 

" Forgotten that people might w£nt to read it — after 
it is written." 

" But," said the Tinker, rubbing his nose hard, " boo**«* 
are written for people to read, are n't they ? " 

" Not alwa3's," said I. 

Hereupon the Tinker rubbed his nose harder than ever. 

" Many of the world's greatest books, those maste* 
pieces which have lived and shall live on forever, were wrii 
ten (as I believe) for the pure love of writing them." 

"Oh!" said the Tinker. 

" Yes," said I, warming to my theme, " and with little 
or no idea of the eyes of those unborn generations which 
were to read and marvel at them; hence it is we get those 
sublime thoughts untrammelled by passing tastes and fash- 
ions, unbounded by narrow creed or popular prejudice." 



4 The Broad Highway 

"Ah? "said the Tinker. 

" Many a great writer has been spoiled by fashion and 
success, for, so soon as he begins to think upon his public, 
how best to please and hold their fancy (which is ever the 
most fickle of mundane things) straightway Genius spreads 
abroad his pinions and leaves him in the mire." 

" Poor cove ! " said the Tinker. " Young man, you 
smile, I think? " 

" No," said I. 

" Well, supposing a writer never had no gen'us — how 
then?" 

" Why then," said I, " he should never dare to write at 
all." 

" Young fellow," said the Tinker, glancing at me from 
the corners of his eyes, " are you sure you are a gen'us 
then?" 

Now when my companion said this I fell silent, for the 
very sufficient reason that I found nothing to say. 

" Lord love you ! " said he at last, seeing me thus 
"" hipped " — " don't be downhearted — don't be dashed 
afore you begin ; we can't all be gen'uses — it are n't to be 
expected, but some on us is a good deal better than most 
and that 's something arter all. As for your book, wot 
you have to do is to give 'em a little blood now and then 
with plenty of love and you can't go far wrong ! " 

Now whether the Tinker's theory for the writing of a 
good novel be right or wrong, I will not presume to say. 
But in this book that lies before you, though you shall read, 
if you choose, of country things and ways and people, yet, 
because that part of my life herein recorded was a some- 
thing hard, rough life, you shall read also of blood ; and, 
because I came, in the end, to love very greatly, so shall 
you read of love. 

Wherefore, then, I am emboldened to hope that when you 
shall have turned the last page and closed this book, you 
shall do so with a sigh, 

P.V. 

London. 



BOOK ONE 

CHAPTER I 

RNING MY UNC 
AND TESTAMENT 

" ' And to my nephew, Maurice Vibart, I bequeath the sum 
of twenty thousand pounds in the fervent hope that it may 
help him to the devil within the year, or as soon after as 
may be.' " 

Here Mr. Grainger paused in his reading to glance up 
over the rim of his spectacles, while Sir Richard lay back 
in his chair and laughed loudly. " Gad ! " he exclaimed, 
still chuckling, " I 'd give a hundred pounds if he could 
have been present to hear that," and the baronet went off 
into another roar of merriment. 

Mr. Grainger, on the other hand, dignified and solemn, 
coughed a short, dry cough behind his hand. 

" Help him to the devil within the year," repeated Sir 
Richard, still chuckling. 

" Pray proceed, sir," said I, motioning towards the will. 
. . . But instead of complying, Mr. Grainger laid down 
the parchment, and removing his spectacles, began to 
polish them with a large silk handkerchief. 

" You are, I believe, unacquainted with your cousin, 
Sir Maurice Vibart ? " he inquired. 

" I have never seen him," said I ; " all my life has been 
passed either at school or the university, but I have fre- 
quently heard mention of him, nevertheless." 

" Egad ! " cried Sir Richard, " who has n't heard of 
Buck Vibart — beat Ted Jarraway of Swansea in five 
rounds — drove coach and four down Whitehall — on side- 



6 The Broad Highway 

walk — ran away with a French marquise while but a boy 
of twenty, and shot her husband into the bargain. Devil- 
ish celebrated figure in 6 sporting circles,' friend of the 
Prince Regent " 

" So I understand," said I. 

" Altogether as complete a young blackguard as ever 
swaggered down St. James's." Having said which, Sir 
Richard crossed his legs and inhaled a pinch of snuff. 

" Twenty thousand pounds is a very handsome sum," re- 
marked Mr. Grainger ponderously and as though more 
with the intention of saying something rather than remain 
silent just then. 

" Indeed it is," said I, " and might help a man to the 
devil as comfortably as need be, but " 

" Though," pursued Mr. Grainger, " much below his 
expectations and sadly inadequate to his present needs, 
I fear." 

" That is most unfortunate," said I, " but " 

" His debts," said Mr. Grainger, busy at his spectacles 
again, " his debts are very heavy, I believe." 

" Then doubtless some arrangement can be made to — 
but continue your reading, I beg," said I. 

Mr. Grainger repeated his short, dry cough and taking 
up the will, slowly and almost as though unwillingly, 
cleared his throat and began as follows : 

" ' Furthermore, to my nephew, Peter Vibart, cousin to 
the above, I will and bequeath my blessing and the sum of 
ten guineas in cash, wherewith to purchase a copy of Zeno 
or any other of the stoic philosophers he may prefer.' " 

Again Mr. Grainger laid down the will, and again he 
regarded me over the rim of his spectacles. 

" Good God ! " cried Sir Richard, leaping to his feet, 
" the man must have been mad. Ten guineas — why, it 's 
an insult — damme ! — it 's an insult — you '11 never take 
it of course, Peter." 

" On the contrary, sir," said I. 



Concerning my Uncle's Last Will 7 

" But — ten guineas ! " bellowed the baronet ; " on my 
soul now, George was a cold-blooded fish, but I did n't think 
even he was capable of such a despicable trick — no — 
curse me if I did ! Why, it would have been kinder to have 
left you nothing at all — but it was like George — bitter 
to the end — ten guineas S " 

" Is ten guineas," said I. " and when one comes to think 
of it, much may be done with ten guineas." 

Sir Richard grew purple in the face, but before he could 
speak, Mr. Grainger began to read again: 

" 6 Moreover, the sum of five hundred thousand pounds, 
now vested in the funds, shall be paid to either Maurice 
or Peter Vibart aforesaid, if either shall, within one cal- 
endar year, become the husband of the Lady Sophia Sefton 
of Cambourne.' " 

" Good God ! " exclaimed Sir Richard. 

" 6 Failing which,' " read Mr. Grainger, " ; the said sum, 
namely, five hundred thousand pounds, shall be bestowed 
upon such charity or charities as the trustees shall select. 
Signed by me, this tenth day of April, eighteen hundred 

and , George Vibart. Duly witnessed by Adam 

Penfleet, Martha Trent.' " 

Here Mr. Grainger's voice stopped, and I remember, in 
the silence that followed, the parchment crackled very 
loudly as he folded it precisely and laid it on the table be- 
fore him. I remember also that Sir Richard was swearing 
vehemently under his breath as he paced to and fro between 
me and the window. 

u And that is all? " J inquired at last. 

" That," said Mr. Grainger, not looking at me now, rt is 
all." 

" The Lady Sophia," murmured Sir Richard as if to 
himself, " the Lady Sophia ! " And then, stopping sud- 
denly before me in his walk, " Oh, Peter ! " said he, clap- 
ping his hand down upon my shoulder, " oh, Peter, that 



8 The Broad Highway- 

settles it ; you 're done for, boy — a crueller will was never 
made." 

" Marriage ! " said I to myself. " Hum ! " 

" A damnable iniquity ! " exclaimed Sir Richard, strid- 
ing up and down the room again. 

" The Lady Sophia Sefton of Cambourne ! " said I, rub- 
bing my chin. 

"Why, that's just it," roared the baronet; "she's a 
reigning toast — most famous beauty in the country, 
London 's mad over her — she can pick and choose from 
all the finest gentlemen in England. Oh, it 's * good-by ' to 
all your hopes of the inheritance, Peter, and that 's the devil 
of it." 

" Sir, I fail to see your argument," said I. 

" What ? " cried Sir Richard, facing round on me, 
" d' you think you 'd have a chance with her then? " 

"Why not?" 

" Without friends, position, o\ money ? Pish, boy ! don't 
I tell you that every buck and dandy — every mincing 
macaroni in the three kingdoms would give his very legs 
to marry her — either for her beauty or her fortune ? " 
spluttered the baronet. " And let me inform you further 
that she 's devilish high and haughty with it all — they do 
say she even rebuffed the Prince Regent himself." 

" But then, sir, I consider myself a better man than the 
Prince Regent," said I. 

Sir Richard sank into the nearest chair and stared at me 
open-mouthed. 

" Sir," I continued, " you doubtless set me down as an 
egoist of egoists. I freely confess it ; so are you, so is Mr. 
Grainger yonder, so are we all of us egoists in thinking our- 
selves as good as some few of our neighbors and better 
than a great many." 

" Deuce take me ! " said Sir Richard. 

" Referring to the Lady Sophia, I have heard that 
she once galloped her horse up the steps of St. Paul's 
Cathedral " 

" And down again, Peter," added Sir Richard. 



Concerning my Uncle's Last Will 9 

" Also she is said to be possessed of a temper," I con- 
tinued, " and is above the average height, I believe, and 
I have a natural antipathy to termagants, more especially 
tall ones." 

" Termagant ! " cried Sir Richard. " Why, she 's the 
handsomest woman in London, boy. She 's none of your 
milk-and-watery, meek-mouthed misses — curse me, no ! 
She 's all fire and blood and high mettle — a woman, sir — 
glorious — divine — damme, sir, a black-browed goddess 
— a positive plum ! " 

" Sir Richard," said I, " should I ever contemplate mar- 
riage, which is most improbable, my wife must be sweet and 
shy, gentle-eyed and soft of voice, instead of your bold, 
strong-armed, horse-galloping creature; above all, she 
must be sweet and clinging " 

" Sweet and sticky, oh, the devil ! Hark to the boy, 
Grainger," cried Sir Richard, " hark to him — and one 
glance of the glorious Sefton's bright eyes — one glance 
Only, Grainger, and he 'd be at her feet — on his knees — 
on his confounded knees, sir ! " 

" The question is, how do you propose to maintain your- 
self in the future? " said Mr. Grainger at this point; " life 
under your altered fortunes must prove necessarily hard, 
Mr. Peter." 

" And yet, sir," I answered, " a fortune with a wife 
tagged on to it must prove a very mixed blessing after all ; 
and then again, there may be a certain amount of satis- 
faction in stepping into a dead man's shoes, but I, very 
foolishly, perhaps, have a hankering for shoes of my own. 
Surely there must be some position in life that I am com- 
petent to fill, some position that would maintain me honor- 
ably and well; I flatter myself that my years at Oxford 
were not altogether barren of result " 

" By no means," put in Sir Richard ; " you won the 
High Jump, I believe? " 

" Sir, I did," said I ; " also ' Throwing the Hammer.' " 

" And spent two thousand pounds per annum ? " said 
Sir Richard. 



io The Broad Highway 

" Sir, I did, but between whiles managed to do fairly well 
in the Tripos, to finish a new and original translation of 
Quintilian, another of Petronius Arbiter and also a literal 
rendering into the English of the Memoirs of the Sieur de 
Brantome." 

" For none of which you have hitherto found a pub- 
lisher? " inquired Mr. Grainger. 

" Not as yet," said I, " but I have great hopes of my 
Brantome, as you are probably aware this is the first time 
he has ever been translated into the English." 

" Hum ! " said Sir Richard, " ha ! — and in the mean- 
time what do you intend to do ? " 

" On that head I have as yet come to no definite conclu- 
sion, sir," I answered. 

" I have been wondering," began Mr. Grainger, some- 
what diffidently, " if you would care to accept a position 
in my office. To be sure the remuneration would be small 
at first and quite insignificant in comparison to the income 
you have been in the receipt of." 

" But it would have been money earned," said I, " which 
is infinitely preferable to that for which we never turn a 
hand — at least, I think so." 

" Then you accept ? " 

" No, sir," said I, " though I am grateful to you, and 
thank you most sincerely for your offer, yet I have never 
felt the least inclination to the practice of law ; where there 
is no interest one's work must necessarily suffer, and I 
have no desire that your business should be injured by any 
carelessness of mine." 

" What do you think of a private tutorship ? " 

" It would suit me above all things were it not for the 
fact that the genus ' Boy ' is the most aggravating of all 
animals, and that I am conscious of a certain shortness of 
temper at times, which might result in pain to my pupil, 
loss of dignity to myself, and general unpleasantness to all 
concerned — otherwise a private tutorship would suit most 
admirably." 

Here Sir Richard took another pinch of snuff and sat 



Concerning my Uncle's Last Will 1 1 

frowning up at the ceiling, while Mr. Grainger began tying 
up that document which had so altered my prospects. As 
for me, I crossed to the window and stood staring out at the 
evening. Everywhere were trees tinted by the rosy glow of 
sunset, trees that stirred sleepily in the gentle wind, and 
far away I could see that famous highway, built and paved 
for the march of Roman Legions, winding away to where 
it vanished over distant Shooter's Hill. 

" And pray," said Sir Richard, still frowning at the 
ceiling, " what do you propose to do with yourself ? " 

Now, as I looked out upon this fair evening, I became, 
of a sudden, possessed of an overmastering desire, a great 
longing for field and meadow and hedgerow, for wood and 
coppice and shady stream, for sequestered inns and wide, 
wind-swept heaths, and ever the broad highway in front. 
Thus I answered Sir Richard's question unhesitatingly, 
and without turning from the window: 

" I shall go, sir, on a walking tour through Kent and 
Surrey into Devonshire, and thence probably to Cornwall." 

" And with a miserable ten guineas in your pocket ? 
Preposterous — absurd ! " retorted Sir Richard. 

" On the contrary, sir," said I, " the more I ponder the 
project, the more enamored of it I become." 

" And when your money is all gone — how then? " 

" I shall turn my hand to some useful employment," said 
I ; " digging, for instance." 

"Digging!" ejaculated Sir Richard, "and you a 
scholar — and what is more, a gentleman ! " 

" My dear Sir Richard," said I, " that all depends upon 
how you would define a gentleman. To me he would ap- 
pear, of late years, to have degenerated into a creature 
whose chief end in life is to spend money he has never 
earned, to reproduce his species with a deplorable frequency 
and promiscuity, habitually to drink more than is good 
for him, and, between whiles, to fill in his time hunting, 
cock-fighting, or watching entranced while two men pound 
each other unrecognizable in the prize ring. Occasionally 
he has the good taste to break his neck in the hunting field, 



12 The Broad Highway 

or get himself gloriously shot in a duel, but the generality 
live on to a good old age, turn their attention to matters 
political and, following the dictates of their class, damn 
all reform with a whole-hearted fervor equalled only by 
their rancor." 

" Deuce take me! " ejaculated Sir Richard feebly, while 
Mr. Grainger buried his face in his pocket-handkerchief. 

" To my mind," I ended, " the man who sweats over a 
spade or follows the tail of a plough is far nobler and 
higher in the Scheme of Things than any of your young 
* bloods ' driving his coach and four to Brighton to the 
danger of all and sundry." 

Sir Richard slowly got up out of his chair, staring at me 
open-mouthed. " Good God ! " he exclaimed at last, " the 
boy 's a Revolutionary." 

I smiled and shrugged my shoulders, but, before I could 
speak, Mr. Grainger interposed, sedate and solemn as 
usual : 

" Referring to your proposed tour, Mr. Peter, when 
do you expect to start? " 

" Early to-morrow morning, sir." 

" I will not attempt to dissuade you, well knowing the 
difficulty," said he, with a faint smile, " but a letter ad- 
dressed to me at Lincoln's Inn will always find me and 
receive my most earnest attention." So saying, he rose, 
bowed, and having shaken my hand, left the room, closing 
the door behind him. 

" Peter," exclaimed the baronet, striding up and down, 
" Peter, you are a fool, sir, a hot-headed, self-sufficient, 
pragmatical young fool, sir, curse me ! " 

" I am sorry you should think so," I answered. 

" And," he continued, regarding me with a defiant eye, 
" I shall expect you to draw upon me for any sum that — 
that you may require for the present — friendship's sake — 
boyhood and — and all that sort of thing, and — er — oh, 
damme, you understand, Peter? " 

" Sir Richard," said I, grasping his unwilling hand, " I 
< — I thank you from the bottom of my heart." 



Concerning my Uncle's Last Will 13 

"Pooh, Peter, dammit!" said he, snatching his hand 
away and thrusting it hurriedly into his pocket, out of 
farther reach. 

" Thank you, sir," I reiterated ; " be sure that should 
I fall ill or any unforeseen calamity happen to me, I will 
most gladly, most gratefully accept your generous aid in 
the spirit in which it is oif ered, but " 

" But? " exclaimed Sir Richard. 

" Until then " 

" Oh, the devil ! " said Sir Richard, and ringing the bell 
ordered his horse to be brought to the door, and thereafter 
stood with his back to the empty fireplace, his fists thrust 
down into his pockets, frowning heavily and with a fixed 
intentness at the nearest armchair. 

Sir Richard Anstruther is tall and broad, ruddy of face, 
with a prominent nose and great square chin whose grim- 
ness is offset by a mouth singularly sweet and tender, and 
the kindly light of blue eyes ; he is in very truth a gentle- 
man. Indeed, as he stood there in his plain blue coat with 
its high roll collar and shining silver buttons, his spotless 
moleskins and heavy, square-toed riding boots, he was as 
fair a type as might be of the English country gentleman. 
It is such men as he, who, fearless upon the littered quarfer- 
decks of reeling battleships, undismayed amid the smoke 
and death of stricken fields, their duty well and nobly done; 
have turned their feet homewards to pass their latter days 
amid their turnips and cabbages, beating their swords into 
pruning-hooks, and glad enough to do it. 

" Peter," said he suddenly. 

"Sir? "said I. 

" You never saw your father to remember, did you? " 

" No, Sir Richard." 

" Nor your mother ? " 

" Nor my mother." 

" Poor boy — poor boy ! " 

" You knew my mother ? " 

" Yes, Peter, I knew your mother," said Sir Richard, 
staring very hard at the chair again, and I saw that his 



14 The Broad Highway 

mouth had grown wonderfully tender. " Yours has been 
a very secluded life hitherto, Peter," he went on after a 
moment. 

" Entirely so," said I, " with the exception of my never- 
to-be-forgotten visits to the Hall." 

" Ah, yes, I taught you to ride, remember." 

" You are associated with every boyish pleasure I e^ver 
knew," said I, laying my hand upon his arm. Sir Richard 
coughed and grew suddenly red in the face. 

" Why — ah — you see, Peter," he began, picking up 
his riding whip and staring at it, " you see your uncle 
was never very fond of company at any time, whereas 
I " 

" Whereas you could always find time to remember the 
lonely boy left when all his companions were gone on their 
holidays — left to his books and the dreary desolation of 
the empty schoolhouse, and echoing cloisters " 

" Pooh ! " exclaimed Sir Richard, redder than ever. 
"Bosh!" 

" Do you think I can ever forget the glorious day when 
you drove over in your coach and four, and carried me off 
in triumph, and how we raced the white-hatted fellow in the 
tilbury ? " 

" And beat him ! " added Sir Richard. 

" Took off his near wheel on the turn," said I. 

" The fool's own fault," said Sir Richard. 

" And left him in the ditch, cursing us ! " said I. 

" Egad, yes, Peter ! Oh, but those were fine horses — ■ 
and though I say it, no better team in the south country. 
You '11 remember the ' off wheeler ' broke his leg shortly 
after and had to be shot, poor devil." 

"And later, at Oxford," I began. 

" What now, Peter? " said Sir Richard, frowning darkly. 

" Do you remember the bronze vase that used to stand 
on the mantelpiece in my study? " 

" Bronze vase ? " repeated Sir Richard, intent upon his 
whip again. 

" I used to find bank-notes in it after you had visited me, 



Concerning my Uncle's Last Will 1 5 

and when I hid the vase they turned up just the same in 
most unexpected places." 

" Young fellow — must have money — necessary — now 
and then," muttered Sir Richard. 

At this juncture, with a discreet knock, the butler ap- 
peared to announce that Sir Richard's horse was waiting. 
Hereupon the baronet, somewhat hastily, caught up his 
hat and gloves, and I followed him out of the house and 
down the steps. 

Sir Richard drew on his gloves, thrust his toe into the 
stirrup, and then turned to look at me over his arm. 

" Peter," said he. 

" Sir Richard? " said I. 

" Regarding your walking tour " 

"Yes?" 

" I think it ? s all damned tomfoolery ! " said Sir Richard. 
After saying which he swung himself into the saddle with 
a lightness and ease that many younger might have envied. 

" I 'm sorry for that, sir, because my mind is set upon 
it." 

" With ten guineas in your pocket ! " 

" That, with due economy, should be ample until I can 
find some means to earn more." 

" A fiddlestick, sir — an accursed fiddlestick ! " snorted 
Sir Richard. " How is a boy, an unsophisticated, hot- 
headed young fool of a boy to earn his own living? " 

" Others have done it," I began. 

" Pish ! " said the baronet. 

" And been the better for it in the end." 

" Tush ! " said the baronet. 

" And I have a great desire to see the world from the 
viewpoint of the multitude." 

" Bah ! " said the baronet, so forcibly that his mare 
started ; " this comes of your damnable Revolutionary ten- 
dencies. Let me tell you, Want is a hard master, and the 
world a bad place for one who is moneyless and without 
friends." 

" You forget, sir, I shall never be without a friend." 



1 6 The Broad Highway 

" God knows it, boy," answered Sir Richard, and his 
hand fell and rested for a moment upon my shoulder. 
"Peter," said he, very slowly and heavily, " I 'm growing 
old — and I shall never marry — and sometimes, Peter, 
of an evening I get very lonely and — lonely, Peter." He 
stopped for a while, gazing away towards the green slopes 
of distant Shooter's Hill. " Oh, boy ! " said he at last, 
" won't you come to the Hall and help me to spend my 
money? " 

Without answering I reached up and clasped his hand; 
it was the hand which held his whip, and I noticed how 
tightly he gripped the handle, and wondered. 

" Sir Richard," said I at last, " wherever I go I shall 
treasure the recollection of this moment, but " 

"But, Peter?" 

" But, sir " 

" Oh, dammit ! " he exclaimed, and set spurs to his mare. 
Yet once he turned in his saddle to flourish his whip to 
me ere he galloped out of sight. 



CHAPTER II 

I SET OUT 

The clock of the square-towered Norman church, a mile 
away, was striking the hour of four as I let myself out 
into the morning. It was dark as yet, and chilly, but in 
the east was already a faint glimmer of dawn. Reaching 
the stables, I paused with my hand on the door-hasp, listen- 
ing to the hiss, hissing that told me Adam, the groom, was 
already at work within. As I entered he looked up from 
the saddle he was polishing and touched his forehead with 
a grimy forefinger. 

" You be early abroad, Mr. Peter." 

" Yes," said I. " I wish to be on Shooter's Hill at sun- 
rise ; but first I came to say 4 good-by ' to 4 Wings.' " 

" To be sure, sir," nodded Adam, picking up his 
lanthorn. 

Upon the ensuing interview I will not dwell; it was 
affecting both to her and to myself, for we were mutually 
attached. 

" Sir," said Adam, when at last the stable door had 
closed behind us, " that there mare knows as you 're 
a-leaving her." 

" I think she does, Adam." 

" 'Osses be wonderful wise, sir ! " 

" Yes, Adam." 

" This is a bad day for Wings, sir — and all of us, for 
that matter." 

" I hope not, Adam." 

" You be a-going away, they tell me, sir? " 

" Yes, going away," I nodded. 



18 The Broad Highway 

" Wonder what '11 become o' the mare, sir? " 

" Ah, yes, I wonder," said I. 

" Everything to be sold under the will, I think, sir? " 

" Everything, Adam." 

" Excuse me, sir," said he, knuckling his forehead, " you 
won't be wanting ever a groom, will you? " 

" No, Adam," I answered, shaking my head, " I sha'n't 
be wanting a groom." 

" Nor yet a body servant, sir? " 

" No, Adam, nor yet a body servant." 

Here there ensued a silence during which Adam knuckled 
his right temple again and I tightened the buckle of my 
knapsack. 

" I think, Adam," said I, " I think it is going to be a 
fine day." 

" Yes, sir." 

" Good-by, Adam ! " said I, and held out my hand. 

" Good-by, sir." And, having shaken my hand, he 
turned and went back into the stable. 

So I set off, walking beneath an avenue of trees loom- 
ing up gigantic on either hand. At the end was the lodge 
and, ere I opened the gates — for John, the lodgekeeper, 
was not yet astir — ere I opened the gates, I say, I paused 
for one last look at the house that had been all the home 
I had ever known since I could remember. As I stood 
thus, with my eyes upon the indistinct mass, I presently 
distinguished a figure running towards me and, as he came 
up, recognized Adam. 

" It ain't much, sir, but it 's all I 'ave," said he, and 
thrust a short, thick, well-smoked clay pipe into my hand 
— a pipe that was fashioned to the shape of a negro's 
head. " It 's a good pipe, sir," he went on, " a mortal 
good pipe, and as sweet as a nut! " saying which, he turned 
about and ran off, leaving me standing there with his part- 
ing gift in my hand. 

And having put the pipe into an inner pocket, I opened 
the gate and started off at a good pace along the broad 
highway. 



I Set Out 19 

It was a bleak, desolate world that lay about me, a world 
of shadows and a white, low-lying mist that filled every 
hollow and swathed hedge and tree ; a lowering earth and 
a frowning heaven infinitely depressing. But the eastern 
sky was clear with an ever-growing brightness ; hope lay 
there, so, as I walked, I kept my eyes towards the east. 

Being come at last to that eminence which is called 
Shooter's Hill, I sat down upon a bank beside the way and 
turned to look back upon the wonderful city. And as I 
watched, the pearly east changed little by little, to a 
varying pink, which in turn slowly gave place to reds and 
yellows, until up came the sun in all his majesty, gilding 
vane and weathercock upon a hundred spires and steeples, 
and making a glory of the river. Far away upon the 
white riband of road that led across Blackheath, a chaise 
was crawling, but save for that the world seemed deserted. 

I sat thus a great while gazing upon the city and mar- 
velling at the greatness of it. 

" Truly," said I to myself, " nowhere in the whole world 
is there such another city as London ! " And presently I 
sighed and, rising, set my back to the city and went on 
down the hill. 

Yes — the sun was up at last, and at his advent the 
mists rolled up and vanished, the birds awoke in brake and 
thicket and, lifting their voices, sang together, a song of 
universal praise. Bushes rustled, trees whispered, while 
from every leaf and twig, from every blade of grass, there 
hung a flashing jewel. 

With the mists my doubts of the future vanished too, 
and I strode upon my way, a very god, king of my des- 
tiny, walking through a tribute world where feathered 
songsters carolled for me and blossoming flowers wafted 
sweet perfume upon my path. So I went on gayly down 
the hill, rejoicing that I was alive. 

In the knapsack at my back I had stowed a few clothes, 
the strongest and plainest I possessed, together with a 
shirt, some half-dozen favorite books, and my translation 
of Brant6me; Quintilian and Petronius I had left with 



20 The Broad Highway 

Mr. Grainger, who had promised to send them to a pub- 
lisher, a friend of his, and in my pocket was my uncle 
George's legacy, — namely, ten guineas in gold. And, as 
I walked, I began to compute how long such a sum might 
be made to last a man. By practising the strictest econ- 
omy, I thought I might manage well enough on two shil- 
lings a day, and this left me some hundred odd days in 
which to find some means of livelihood, and if a man could 
not suit himself in such time, then (thought I) he must 
be a fool indeed. 

Thus, my thoughts caught something of the glory of 
the bright sky above and the smiling earth about me, as 
I strode along that " Broad Highway " which was to lead 
me I knew not whither, yet where disaster was already 
lying in wait for me — as you shall hear. 



CHAPTER III 

CONCERNS ITSELF MAINLY WITH A HAT 

As the day advanced, the sun beat down with an ever- 
increasing heat, and what with this and the dust I pres- 
ently grew very thirsty ; wherefore, as I went, I must needs 
conjure up tantalizing visions of ale — of ale that foamed 
gloriously in tankards, that sparkled in glasses, and gur- 
gled deliciously from the spouts of earthen pitchers, and 
I began to look about me for some inn where these visions 
might be realized and my burning thirst nobly quenched 
(as such a thirst deserved to be). On I went, through this 
beautiful land of Kent, past tree and hedge and smiling 
meadow, by hill and dale and sloping upland, while ever 
the sun grew hotter, the winding road the dustier, and my 
mighty thirst the mightier. 

At length, reaching the brow of a hill, I espied a small 
inn or hedge tavern that stood back from the glare of the 
road, seeming to nestle in the shade of a great tree, and 
joyfully I hastened toward it. 

As I approached I heard loud voices, raised as though 
in altercation, and a hat came hurtling through the open 
doorway and, bounding into the road, rolled over and over 
to my very feet. And, looking down at it, I saw that it 
was a very ill-used hat, frayed and worn, dented of crown 
and broken of brim, yet beneath its sordid shabbiness there 
lurked the dim semblance of what it had once been, for, in 
the scratched and tarnished buckle, in the jaunty curl of 
the brim, it still preserved a certain pitiful air of rakish- 
ness ; wherefore, I stooped, and, picking it up, began to 
brush the dust from it as well as I might. 



22 The Broad Highway 

I was thus engaged when there arose a sudden bull-like 
roar and, glancing up, I beheld a man who reeled back- 
wards out of the inn and who, after staggering a yard or 
so, thudded down into the road and so lay, staring va- 
cantly up at the sky. Before I could reach him, however, 
he got upon his legs and, crossing unsteadily to the tree 
I have mentioned, leaned there, and I saw there was much 
blood upon his face which he essayed to wipe away with 
the cuff of his coat. Now, upon his whole person, from 
the crown of his unkempt head down to his broken, 
dusty boots, there yet clung that air of jaunty, devil- 
may-care rakishness which I had seen, and pitied in his 
hat. 

Observing, as I came up, how heavily he leaned against 
the tree, and noting the extreme pallor of his face and the 
blank gaze of his sunken eyes, I touched him upon the 
shoulder. 

" Sir, I trust you are not hurt? " said I. 

" Thank you," he answered, his glance still wandering, 
" not in the least — assure you — merely tap on the nose, 
sir — unpleasant — damnably, but no more, no more." 

" I think," said I, holding out the battered hat, " I 
think this is yours? " 

His eye encountering it in due time, he reached out his 
hand somewhat fumblingly, and took it from me with a 
slight movement of the head and shoulders that might 
have been a bow. 

" Thank you — yes — should know it among a thou- 
sand," said he dreamily, " an old friend and a tried — a 
very much tried one — many thanks." With which words 
he clapped the much-tried friend upon his head, and with 
another movement that might have been a bow, turned 
short round and strode away. And as he went, despite 
the careless swing of his shoulder, his legs seemed to falter 
somewhat in their stride and once I thought he staggered ; 
yet, as I watched, half minded to follow after him, he set- 
tled his hat more firmly with a light tap upon the crown 
and, thrusting his hands into the pockets of his threadbare 



Concerns itself mainly with a Hat 23 

coat, fell to whistling lustily, and so, turning a bend in 
the road, vanished from my sight. 

And presently, my thirst recurring to me, I approached 
the inn, and descending three steps entered its cool shade. 
Here I found four men, each with his pipe and tankard, 
to whom a large, red-faced, big-fisted fellow was holding 
forth in a high state of heat and indignation. 

" Wot 's England a-comin' to ? — that 's wot I wants 
to know," he was saying ; " wot 's England a-comin' to 
when thievin' robbers can come a-walkin' in on you a-stealin' 
a pint o' your best ale out o' your very own tankard under 
your very own nose — wot 's it a-comin' to? " 

" Ah ! " nodded the others solemnly, " that 's it, Joel — » 
wot?" 

" W'y," growled the red-faced innkeeper, bringing his 
big fist down with a bang, " it 's a-comin' to per — dition ; 
that 's wot it 's a-comin' to ! " 

" And wot," inquired a rather long, bony man with a 
face half-hidden in sandy whisker, " wot might per — dition 
be, Joel; likewise, wheer? " 

" You must be a danged fule, Tom, my lad ! " retorted 
he whom they called Joel, redder in the face than ever. 

" Ay, that ye must ! " chorused the others. 

" I only axed 'wot an' wheer." 

" Only axed, did ye? " repeated Joel scornfully, 

" Ah," nodded the other, " that 's all." 

" But you 're always a-axin', you are," said Joel 
gloomily. 

" W'ich I notice," retorted the man Tom, blowing into 
his tankard, " w'ich I notice as you ain't never over-fond 
o' answerin'." 

"Oh! — I ain't, ain't I?" 

" No, you ain't," repeated Tom, " nohow." 

Here the red-faced man grew so very red indeed that 
the others fell to coughing, all together, and shuffling their 
feet and giving divers other evidences of their embarrass- 
ment, all save the unimpressionable Tom. 

Seizing the occasion that now presented itself, I knocked 



24 The Broad Highway 

loudly upon the floor with my stick, whereupon the red- 
faced man, removing his eyes slowly and by degrees from 
the unconcerned Tom, fixed them darkly upon me. 

" Supposing," said I, " supposing you are so very 
obliging as to serve me with a pint of ale ? " 

" Then supposin' you show me the color o' your 
money? " he growled, " come, money fust; I are n't takin' 
no more risks." 

For answer I laid the coins before him. And having 
pocketed the money, he filled and thrust a foaming tankard 
towards me, which I emptied forthwith and called upon 
him for another. 

" Wheer 's your money ? " 

" Here," said I, tossing a sixpence to him, " and you 
can keep the change." 

" Why, ye see, sir," he began, somewhat mollified, " it 
be precious 'ard to know who 's a gentleman, an' who ain't ; 
who 's a thief, an' who ain't these days." 

"How so?" 

" Why, only a little while ago — just afore you — chap 
comes a-walkin' in 'ere, no account much to look at, but 
very 'aughty for all that — comes a-walkin in 'ere 'e do 
an' calls for a pint o' ale — you 'eard 'im, all on ye? " He 
broke off, turning to the others ; " you all 'eard 'im call 
for a pint o' ale ? " 

" Ah — we 'eard 'im," they nodded. 

" Comes a-walkin' in 'ere 'e do, bold as brass — calls 
for a pint o' ale — drinks it off, an' — 'ands me 'is 'at ; 
you all seen 'im 'and me 'is 'at? " he inquired, once more 
addressing the others. 

" Every man of us," the four chimed in with four in- 
dividual nods. 

" ' Wot 's this 'ere ? ' says I, turnin' it over. ' It 's a 
'at, or once was,' says 'e. ' Well, I don't want it,' says I. 
* Since you 've got it you 'd better keep it,' says 'e. ' Wot 
for? ' says I? ' Why,' says 'e, ' it 's only fair seein' I 've 
got your ale — it 's a case of exchange,' says 'e. ' Oh ! is 
it ? ' says I, an' pitched the thing out into the road an' 'im 



Concerns itself mainly with a Hat 25 

arter it — an' so it ended. An' wot," said the red-faced 
man nodding his big head at me, " wot d' ye think o' that 
now? " 

" Why, I think you were perhaps a trifle hasty," said I. 

"Oh, ye do, do ye? " 

" Yes," I nodded. 

"An' for why?" 

" Well, you will probably remember that the hat had 
a band round it " 

" Ay, all wore away it were too " 

" And that in the band was a buckle " 



" Ay, all scratched an' rusty it were — well? 
" Well, that tarnished buckle was of silver 



J5 



" Silver!" gasped the man, his jaw falling. 

" And easily worth five shillings, perhaps more, so that 
I think you were, upon the whole, rather hasty." Saying 
which, I finished my ale and, taking up my staff, stepped 
out into the sunshine. 



CHAPTER IV 

I MEET WITH A GREAT MISFORTUNE 

That day I passed through several villages, stopping 
only to eat and drink ; thus evening was falling as, having 
left fair Sevenoaks behind, I came to the brow of a certain 
hill, a long and very steep descent which (I think) is called 
the River Hill. And here, rising stark against the even- 
ing sky, was a gibbet, and standing beneath it a man, a 
short, square man in a somewhat shabby coat of a bottle- 
green, and with a wide-brimmed beaver hat sloped down 
over his eyes, who stood with his feet well apart, sucking 
the knob of a stick he carried, while he stared up at that 
which dangled by a stout chain from the cross-beam of the 
gibbet, — something black and shrivelled and horrible that 
had once been human. 

As I came up, the man drew the stick from his mouth 
and touched the brim of his hat with it in salutation. 

"An object lesson, sir," said he, and nodded towards 
the loathsome mass above. 

" A very hideous one ! " said I, pausing, " and I think 
a very useless one." 

" He was as fine a fellow as ever thrust toe into stirrup," 
the man went on, pointing upwards with his stick, " though 
you 'd never think so to look at him now ! " 

" It 's a horrible sight ! " said I. 

" It is," nodded the man, " it 's a sight to turn a man's 
stomach, that it is ! " 

" You knew him perhaps? " said I. 

" Knew him," repeated the man, staring at me over his 
shoulder, " knew him — ah — that is, I knew of him." 



I Meet with a Great Misfortune 27 

" A highwayman? " 

" Nick Scrope his name was," answered the man with 
a nod, " hung at Maidstone assizes last year, and a very 
good end ho made of it too ; and here he be — hung up 
in chains all nat'ral and reg'lar, as a warning to all and 
sundry." 

" The more shame to England," said I ; "to my think- 
ing it is a scandal that our highways should be rendered 
odious by such horrors, and as wicked as it is useless." 

" 'Od rot me ! " cried the fellow, slapping a cloud of 
dust from his coat with his stick, " hark to that now." 

" What ? " said I, " do you think for one moment that 
such a sight, horrible though it is, could possibly deter a 
man from robbery or murder whose mind is already made 
up to it by reason of circumstances or starvation?" 

" Well, but it 's an old custom, as old as this here road.'" 

" True," said I, " and that of itself but proves my argu- 
ment, for men have been hanged and gibbeted all these 
years, yet robbery and murder abide with us still, and are 
of daily occurrence." 

" Why, as to that, sir," said the man, falling into step 
beside me as I walked on down the hill, " I won't say yes 
and I won't say no, but what I do say is — as many a man 
might think twice afore running the chance of coming to 
that — look ! " And he stopped to turn, and point back 
at the gibbet with his stick. " Nick can't last much longer, 
though ,1 've know'd 'em hang a good time — but the} 
made a botch of Nick — not enough tar ; you can se^ 
where the sun catches him there ! " 

Once more, though my whole being revolted at the sight, 
I must needs turn to look at the thing — the tall, black 
shaft of the gibbet, and the grisly horror that dangled 
beneath with its chains and iron bands ; and from this, 
back again to my companion, to find him regarding me 
with a curiously twisted smile, and a long-barrelled pistol 
held within a foot of my head. 

"Well?" said I, staring. 

" Sir," said he, tapping his boot with his stick, " I 



28 The Broad Highway 

must trouble you for the shiner I see a-winking at me from 
jour cravat, likewise your watch and any small change 
you may have." 

For a moment I hesitated, glancing from his grinning 
mouth swiftly over the deserted road, and back again. 

" Likewise," said the fellow, " I must ask you to be sharp 
about it." It was with singularly clumsy fingers that I 
drew the watch from my fob and the pin from my cravat^ 
and passed them to him. 

" Now your pockets," he suggested, " turn 'em out." 

This command I reluctantly obeyed, bringing to light 
my ten guineas, which were as yet intact, and which he 
pocketed forthwith, and two pennies — which he bade me 
keep. 

" For," said he, " 't will buy you a draught of ale, sir, 
and there 's good stuff to be had at 6 The White Hart ' 
yonder, and there 's nothin' like a draught of good ale to 
comfort a man in any such small adversity like this here. 
As to that knapsack now," he pursued, eyeing it thought- 
fully, " it looks heavy and might hold valleybels, but then, 
on the other hand, it might not, and those there straps 

takes time to unbuckle and " He broke oif suddenly, 

for from somewhere on the hill below us came the unmis- 
takable sound of wheels. Hereupon the fellow very nimbly 
ran across the road, turned, nodded, and vanished among 
the trees and underbrush that clothed the steep slope down 
to the valley below. 



CHAPTER V 

THE BAGMAN 

I was yet standing there, half stunned by my loss and the 
suddenness of it all, when a tilbury came slowly round a 
bend in the road, the driver of which nodded lazily in his 
seat while his horse, a sorry, jaded animal, plodded wearily 
up the steep slope of the hill. As he approached I hailed 
him loudly, upon which he suddenly dived down between 
his knees and produced a brass-bound blunderbuss. 

" What 's to do ? " cried he, a thick-set, round-faced 
fellow, "what's to do, eh? " and he covered me with the 
wide mouth of the blunderbuss. 

" Thieves ! " said I, " I 've been robbed, and not three 
minutes since." 

" Ah ! " he exclaimed, in a tone of great relief, and with 
the color returning to his plump cheeks, " is that the way 
of it?" 

" It is," said I, " and a very bad way ; the fellow has 
left me but twopence in the world." 

"Twopence — ah?" 

" Come," I went on, " you are armed, I see ; the thief 
took to the brushwood, here, not three minutes ago; we 
may catch him yet " 

" Catch him? " repeated the fellow, staring. 

" Yes, don't I tell you he has stolen all the money I 
possess? " 

" Except twopence," said the fellow. 

" Yes " 

" Well, twopence ain't to be sneezed at, and if I was 
you " 



3<d The Broad Highway 

" Come, we 're losing time," said I, cutting him short. 

" But — my mare, what about my mare ? " 

" She '11 stand," I answered ; " she 's tired enough." 

The Bagman, for such I took him to be, sighed, and, 
blunderbuss in hand, prepared to alight, but, in the act of 
doing so, paused: 

" Was the rascal armed?" he inquired, over his shoulder. 

" To be sure he was," said I. 

The Bagman got back into his seat and took up the 
reins. 

" What now? " I inquired. 

" It 's this accursed mare of mine," he answered ; " she '11 
bolt again, d' ye see — twice yesterday and once the day 
before, she bolted, sir, and on a road like this " 

" Then lend me your blunderbuss." 

" I can't do that," he replied, shaking his head. 

" But why not? " said I impatiently. 

" Because this is a dangerous road, and I don't intend 
to be left unarmed on a dangerous road; I never have 
been and I never will, and there 's an end of it, d' ye see ! " 

" Then do you mean to say that you refuse your aid 
to a fellow-traveler — that you will sit there and let the 
rogue get away with all the money I possess in the 
world " 

"Oh, no; not on no account; just you get up here 
beside me and we 'U drive to ' The White Hart.' I 'm 
well known at ' The White Hart ; ' we '11 get a few honest 
fellows at our heels and have this thieving, rascally villain 

in the twinkling of an " He stopped suddenly, made 

a frantic clutch at his blunderbuss, and sat staring. Turn- 
ing short round, I saw the man in the beaver hat standing 
within a yard of us, fingering his long pistol and with the 
same twisted smile upon his lips. 

" I 've a mind," said he, nodding his head at the Bag- 
man, " I 've a great mind to blow your face off." 

The blunderbuss fell to the roadway, with a clatter. 

" Thievin', rascally villain — was it? Damme! I think 
I will blow your face off." 



The Bagman 3 1 

" No — don't do — that," said the Bagman, in a 
strange, jerky voice, " what 'ud be — the good?" 

" Why, that there poor animal would n't have to drag 
that fat carkiss of yours up and down hills, for one thing." 

" I '11 get out and walk." 

" And it might leam ye to keep a civil tongue in your 
head." 

"I — I did n't mean — any — offence." 

" Then chuck us your purse," growled the other, " and 
be quick about it." The Bagman obeyed with wonderful 
celerity, and I heard the purse chink as the footpad 
dropped it into the pocket of his greatcoat. 

" As for you," said he, turning to me, " you get on your 
way and never mind me ; forget you ever had ten guineas 
and don't go a-riskin' your vallyble young life ; come — 
up with you ! " and he motioned me into the tilbury with 
his pistol. 

" What about my blunderbuss? " expostulated the Bag- 
man, faintly, as I seated myself beside him, " you '11 give 
me my blunderbuss — cost me five pound it did." 

" More fool you ! " said the highwayman, and, picking 
up the unwieldy weapon, he hove it into the ditch. 

" As to our argyment — regardin' gibbetin', sir," said 
he, nodding to me, "I 'm rayther inclined to think you 
was in the right on it arter all." Then, turning towards 
the Bagman : " Drive on, fat-face ! " said he, " and sharp 's 
the word.' 5 Whereupon the Bagman whipped up his horse 
and, as the tired animal struggled forward over the crest 
of the hill, I saw the highwayman still watching us. 

Very soon we came in .view of " The White Hart," °.n 
inn I remembered to have passed on the right hand side 
of the road, and scarce were we driven lip to the door 
than down jumped the Bagman, leaving me to follow at 
my leisure, and running into the tap, forthwith began re- 
counting his loss to all and sundry, so that I soon found 
we were become the center of a gaping crowd, much to 
my disgust. Indeed, I would have slipped away, but eaclt 



32 The Broad Highway 

time I attempted to do so the Bagman would appeal to 
me to corroborate some statement. 

" Galloping Dick himself, or I 'm a Dutchman ! " he 
cried for the twentieth time ; " up he comes, bold as brass, 
bless you, and a horse-pistol in each hand. * Hold hard ! ' 
says I, and ups with my blunderbuss ; you remember as 
I ups with my blunderbuss? " he inquired, turning to me. 

" Quite well," said I. 

" Ah, but you should have seen the fellow's face, when 
he saw my blunderbuss ready at my shoulder; green it 
was — green as grass, for if ever there was death in a 
man's face, and sudden death at that, there was sudden 
death in mine, when, all at once, my mare, my accursed 
mare, jibbed — " 

" Yes, yes ? " cried half-a-dozen breathless voices, " what 
then?" 

" Why, then, gentlemen," said the Bagman, shaking his 
liead and frowning round upon the ring of intent faces, 
" why then, gentlemen, being a resolute, determined fel- 
low, I did what any other man of spirit would have done 
— I " 

" Dropped your blunderbuss," said I. 

" Ay, to be sure I did " 

" And he pitched it into the ditch," said I. 

" Ay," nodded the Bagman dubiously, while the others 
crowded nearer. 

" And then he took your money, and called you ' Fool ' 
and ' Fat-face,' and so it ended," said I. With which I 
pushed my way from the circle, and, finding a quiet corner 
beside the chimney, sat down, and with my last twopence 
paid for a tankard of ale. 



CHAPTER VI 

WHAT BEFELL ME AT " THE WHITE HART " 

When a man has experienced some great and totally un- 
expected reverse of fortune, has been swept from one plane. 
of existence to another, that he should fail at once to 
recognize the full magnitude of that change is but natu- 
ral, for his faculties must of necessity be numbed more 
or less by its very suddenness. 

Yesterday I had been reduced from affluence to poverty 
with an unexpectedness that had dazed me for the time 
being, and, from the poverty of an hour ago, I now found 
myself reduced to an utter destitution, without the where- 
withal to pay for the meanest night's lodging. And, con- 
trasting the careless ease of a few days since with my 
present lamentable situation, I fell into a gloomy medita- 
tion; and the longer I thought it over, the more dejected 
I became. To be sure, I might apply to Sir Richard for 
assistance, but my pride revolted at even the thought, 
more especially at such an early stage; moreover, I had 
determined, beforehand, to walk my appointed road un- 
aided from the first. 

From these depressing thoughts I was presently aroused 
by a loud, rough voice at no great distance, to which, 
though I had been dimly conscious of it for some time, 
I had before paid no attention. Now, however, I raised 
my eyes from the spot upon the floor where they had 
rested hitherto, and fixed them upon the speaker. 

He was a square-shouldered, bullet-headed fellow, evi- 
dently held in much respect by his companions, for he 
occupied the head of the table, and I noticed that when- 



34 The Broad Highway 

ever he spoke the others held their peace, and hung upon 
the words with an appearance of much respect. 

" ' Yes, sirs,' says I," he began, louder than before, and 
with a flourish of his long-stemmed pipe, " ' yes, sirs, Tom 
Cragg 's my name an' craggy 's my natur,' says I. ' I be 
'ard, sirs, dey-vilish 'ard an' uncommon rocky ! 'Ere 's 
a face as likes good knocks,' I says, ' w'y, when I fought 
Crib Burke o' Bristol 'e broke 'is 'and again' my jaw, so 
*e did, an' I scarce knowed 'e 'd 'it me till I see 'im 'oppin' 
wi' the pain of it. Come, sirs,' says I, 6 who '11 give me a 
black eye; a fiver 's all I ask.' Well, up comes a young 
buck, ready an' willin'. ' Tom,' says 'e, ' I '11 take two 
flaps at that figger-head o' yourn for seven guineas, come, 
what d' ye say? ' I says, 6 done,' says I. So my fine 
gentleman lays by 'is 'at an' cane, strips off 'is right-' and 
glove, an' 'eavin' back lets fly at me. Bang comes 'is fist 
again' my jaw, an' there 's my gentleman a-dabbin' at 'is 
broken knuckles wi' 'is 'ankercher. ' Come, my lord,' says 
I, i fair is fair, take your other whack.' ' Damnation ! ' 
says 'e, 8 take your money an' go to the devil ! ' says 'e, 6 1 
thought you was flesh an' blood an' not cast iron ! ' 
* Craggy, my lord,' says I, gathering up the rhino, ' Cragg 
by name an' craggy by natur', my lord,' says I." 

Hereupon ensued a roar of laughter, with much slap- 
ping of thighs, and stamping of feet, while the bullet- 
headed man solemnly emptied his tankard, which was the 
signal for two or three of those nearest to vie for its pos- 
session, during which Tom Cragg sucked dreamily at his 
pipe and stared placidly up at the ceiling. 

" Now, Tom," said a tall, bony individual, chiefly re- 
markable in possessing but one eye, and that so extremely 
pale and watery as to give one the idea that it was very 
much overworked, " now, Tom," said he, setting down 
the refilled tankard at the great man's elbow with a tri- 
umphant flourish, " tell us 'ow you shook 'ands wi' the 
Prince Regent." 

" Ah ! tell us," chimed the rest. 

" Well," said the bullet-headed man, stooping to blow 



What Befell at "The White Hart" 35 

the froth from his ale, " it was arter I beat Jack Nolan 
of Brummagem. The Prince 'e come a-runnin' to me 'e 
did, as I sat in my corner a-workin' at a loose tusk. 
' Tom,' 'e says, ' Tom, you be a wonder.' ' I done Jack 
Nolan up proper I think, your 'Jghness,' says I. ' Tom,' 
says 'e, wi' tears in 'is eyes, ' you 'ave ; an' if I 'ad my 
way,' says 'e, ' I 'd make you Prime Minister to-morrer ! ' 
'e says. An' slapped me on the back 'e did, wi' 'is merry 
own 'and, an' likewise gave me this 'ere pin," saying which, 
he pointed to a flaming diamond horseshoe which he wore 
stuck through his neckerchief. The stones were extremely 
large and handsome, looking very much out of place on 
the fellow's rough person, and seemed in some part to 
bear out his story. Though, indeed, as regarded his as- 
sociation with the Prince Regent, whose tastes were at 
all times peculiar (to say the least), and whose love for 
" the fancy " was notorious, I thought it, on the whole, 
very probable; for despite Craggy's words, foolishly 
blatant though they sounded, there was about him in his 
low, retreating brow, his small, deep-set eyes, his great 
square jowl and heavy chin, a certain air there was no 
mistaking. I also noticed that the upper half of one ear 
was unduly thick and swollen, which is a mark (I believe) 
of the professional pugilist alone. 

" Tom," cried the one-eyed man, " wot 's all this we 
heerd of Ted Jarraway of Swansea bein' knocked out in 
five rounds by this 'ere Lord Vibbot, up in London? " 

" Vibbot? " repeated Cragg, frowning into his tankard, 
" I 'ave n't 'eard of no Vibbot, neither lord, earl, nor 
dook." 

" Come, Tom," coaxed the other, " everybody 's heerd 
o' Buck Vibbot, 'im they calls the \ Fightin' Barronite.' " 

*' If," said Cragg, rolling his bullet-head, " if you was 
to ask me who put Ted Jarraway to sleep, I should answer 
you, Sir Maurice Vibart, commonly called 6 Buck ' Vibart ; 
an* it took ten rounds to do it, not five." 

As may be expected, at this mention of my cousin's 
name I pricked up my ears. 



36 The Broad Highway 

" And what 's all this 'bout him 6 putting out ' Tom 
Cragg, in three? " At this there was a sudden silence 
and all eyes were turned towards the speaker, a small, red- 
headed fellow, with a truculent eye. " Come," said he, 
blowing out a cloud of tobacco smoke, " in three rounds ! 
What d' ye say to that now, come ? " 

Cragg had started up in his chair and now sat scowling 
at his inquisitor open-mouthed; and in the hush I could 
hear the ticking of the clock in the corner, and the crackle 
of the logs upon the hearth. Then, all at once, Cragg's 
pipe shivered to fragments on the floor and he leapt to 
his feet. In one stride, as it seemed, he reached the speaker, 
who occupied the corner opposite mine, but, even as he 
raised his fist, he checked himself before the pocket-pistol 
which the other held levelled across the table. 

" Come, come — none o' that," said the red-headed man, 
his eye more truculent than ever, " I ain't a fightin' cove 
myself, and I don't want no trouble — all I asks is, what 
about Buck Vibart putting out Tom Cragg - — in three 
rounds ? That 's a civil question, ain't it — what d' ye say 
now — come? " 

" I says," cried Tom Cragg, flourishing a great fist in 
the air, " I says as 'e done it — on a foul ! " And he 
smote the table a blow that set the glasses ringing. 

" Done it on a foul? " cried three or four voices. 

" On a foul ! " repeated Cragg. 

" Think again," said the red-headed man, " 't were said 
as it was a werry clean knock-out." 

" An' I say it were done on a foul," reiterated Cragg, 
with another blow of his fist, " an' wot 's more, if Buck 
Vibart stood afore me — ah, in this 'ere very room, I 'd 
prove my words." 

" Humph ! " said the red-headed man, " they do say as 
he 's wonderful quick wi' his ' mauleys,' an' can hit — like 
a sledge-hammer." 

" Quick wi' 'is 'ands 'e may be, an' able to give a good- 
ash thump, but as for beatin' me — it 's ' all me eye an' 
Betty Martin,' an' you can lay to that, my lads. I could 



What Befell at "The White Hart" 37 

put 'im to sleep any time an' anywhere, an' I 'd like — 
ah ! I 'd like to see the chap as says contrairy ! " And 
here the pugilist scowled round upon his hearers (more 
especially the red-headed man) so blackly that one or two 
of them shuffled uneasily, and the latter individual ap- 
peared to become interested in the lock of his pistol. 

"I'd like," repeated Cragg, "ah! I'd like to see the 
cove as says contrairy." 

" No one ain't a-goin' to, Tom," said the one-eyed man 
soothingly, " not a soul, Lord bless you ! " 
" I only wish they would," growled Cragg. 
"Ain't there nobody to obleege the gentleman?" in- 
quired the red-headed man. 

" I 'd fight any man as ever was born — wish I may 
die ! " snorted Cragg. 

" You always was so fiery, Tom ! " purred the one-eyed 
man, blinking his pale orb. 

" I were," cried the prizefighter, working himself into 
another rage, " ah ! an' I 'm proud of it. I 'd fight any 
man as ever wore breeches — why, burn me ! I 'd give 
any man ten shillin' as could stand up to me for ten 
minutes." 

" Ten shillings ! " said I to myself, " ten shillings, when 
one comes to think of it, is a very handsome sum — more 
especially when one is penniless and destitute ! " 

" Wish I may die ! " roared Cragg, smiting his fist down 
on the table again, " a guinea — a golden guinea to the 
man as could stand on 'is pins an' fight me for five minutes 
— an' as for Buck Vibart — curse 'im, I say as 'e won on 
afoul!" 

" A guinea," said I to myself, " is a fortune ! " And, 
setting down my empty tankard, I crossed the room and 
touched Cragg upon the shoulder. 

" I will fight you," said I, " for a guinea." 

Now, as the fellow's eyes met mine, he rose up out of 

his chair and his mouth opened slowly, but he spoke no 

word, backing from me until he was stayed by the table, 

where he stood, staring at me. And once again there fell 



38 The Broad Highway 

a silence, in which I heard the tick of the clock in the 
corner and the crackle of the logs upon the hearth. 

" You ? " said he, recovering himself with an effort, 
"you?" and, as he spoke, I saw his left eyelid twitch 
suddenly. 

" Exactly," I answered, " I think I can stand up to 
even you — for five minutes." Now, as I spoke, he winked 
at me again. That it was meant for me was certain, see- 
ing that his back was towards the others, though what 
he intended to convey I could form no idea, so I assumed 
as confident an air as. possible and waited. Hereupon the 
one-eyed man broke into a sudden raucous laugh, in which 
the others joined. 

" 'Ark to 'im, lads," he cried, pointing to me with the 
stem of his pipe, " 'e be a fine un to stand up to Tom 
Cragg — I don't think." 

" Tell 'un to go an' larn hisself to grow whiskers fust ! " 
cried a second. 

" Ay, to be sure, 'e are n't got so much as our old cat ! " 
grinned a third. 

" Stay ! " cried the one-eyed man, peering up at me 
beneath his hand. " Is they whiskers a-peepin' at me over 
'is cravat or do my eyes deceive me? " Which pleasantry 
called forth another roar of laughter at my expense. 

Now, very foolishly perhaps, this nonsense greatly ex- 
asperated me, for I was, at that time, painfully conscious 
of my bare lips and chin. It was, therefore, with an effort 
that I mastered my quickly rising temper, and once more 
addressed myself to Cragg. 

" I am willing," said I, " to accept your conditions and 
fight you — for a guinea — or any other man here for 
that matter, except the humorous gentleman with the 
watery eye, who can name his own price." The fellow in 
question stared at me, glanced slowly round, and, sitting 
down, buried his face in his tankard. 

" Come, Tom Cragg," said I, " a while ago you seemed 
very anxious for a man to fight ; well — I 'm your man," 
and with the words I stripped off my coat and laid it 
across a chair-back. 



What Befell at "The White Hart" 39 

This apparent willingness on my part was but a cloak for 
my real feelings, for I will not here disguise the fact that 
the prospect before me was anything but agreeable; in- 
deed my heart was thumping in a most unpleasant manner, 
and my tongue and lips had become strangely parched 
and dry, as I fronted Cragg. 

Truly, he looked dangerous enough, with his beetling 
brow, his great depth of chest, and massive shoulders ; and 
the possibility of a black eye or so, and general pounding 
from the fellow's knotted fists, was daunting in the ex- 
treme. Still, the chance of earning a guinea, even under 
such conditions, was not to be lightly thrown away ; there- 
fore I folded my arms and waited with as much resolution 
as I could. 

" Sir," said Cragg, speaking in a very altered tone, 
" sir, you seem oncommon — eager for it." 

" I shall be glad to get it over," said I. 

" If," he went on slowly, " if I said anything against — 
you know who, I 'm sorry for it — me 'aving the great- 
est respec' for — you know who — you understand me, I 
think." And herewith he winked, three separate and dis- 
tinct times. 

" No, I don't understand you in the least," said I, " nor 
do I think it at all necessary ; all that I care about is the 
guinea in question." 

" Come, Tom," cried one of the company, " knock 'is 
'ead off to begin with." 

" Ay, set about 'm r Tom — cut your gab an' finish 'im," 
and here came the clatter of chairs as the company rose. 

" Can't be done," said Cragg, shaking his head, " least- 
ways — not 'ere." 

" I 'm not particular," said I, " if you prefer, we might 
manage it very well in the stable with a couple of 
lanthorns." 

" The barn would be the very place," suggested the 
landlord, bustling eagerly forward and wiping his hands 
on his apron, " the very place — plenty of room and nice 
and soft to fall on. If you would only put off your 



40 The Broad Highway 

fightin' till to-morrow, we might cry it through the vil- 
lages; 'twould be a big draw. Ecod! we might make 
a purse o' twenty pound — if you only would ! Think it 
over — think it over." 

" To-morrow I hope to be a good distance from here," 
said I ; " come, the sooner it is over the better, show us 
your barn." So the landlord called for lanthorns and led 
the way to a large outbuilding at the back of the inn, 
into which we all trooped. 

" It seems to be a good place and very suitable," said I. 

" You may well say that," returned the landlord, " it 's 
many a fine bout as has been brought off in 'ere ; the time 
Jem Belcher beat ' The Young Ruffian ' the Prince o' 
Wales sat in a cheer over in that theer corner — ah, that 
was a day, if you please ! " 

" If Tom Cragg is ready," said I, turning up the wrist- 
bands of my shirt, " why, so am I." Here it was found 
to every one's surprise, and mine in particular, that Tom 
Cragg was not in the barn. Surprise gave place to noisy 
astonishment when, after much running to and fro, it was 
further learned that he had vanished altogether. The inn 
itself, the stables, and even the haylofts were ransacked 
without avail. Tom Cragg was gone as completely as 
though he had melted into thin air, and with him all my 
hopes of winning the guinea and a comfortable bed. 

It was with all my old dejection upon me, therefore, 
that I returned to the tap-room, and, refusing the offi- 
cious aid of the One-Eyed Man, put on my coat, read- 
justed my knapsack and crossed to the door. On the 
threshold I paused, and looked back. 

" If," said I, glancing round the ring of faces, " if there 
is any man here who is at all willing to fight for a guinea, 
ten shillings, or even five, I should be very glad of the 
chance to earn it." But, seeing how each, wilfully avoid- 
ing my eye, held his peace, I sighed, and turning my back 
upon them, set off along the darkening road. 



CHAPTER VII 

OF THE FURTHER PUZZLING BEHAVIOR OF TOM 
CRAGG, THE PUGILIST 

Evening had fallen, and I walked along in no very happy 
frame of mind, the more so, as the rising wind and flying 
wrack of clouds above (through which a watery moon had 
peeped at fitful intervals) seemed to presage a wild night. 
It needed but this to make my misery the more complete, 
for, as far as I could tell, if I slept at all (and I was 
already very weary), it must, of necessity, be beneath some 
hedge or tree. 

As I approached the brow of the hill, I suddenly re- 
membered that I must once more pass the gibbet, and 
began to strain my eyes for it. Presently I spied it, sure 
enough, its grim, gaunt outline looming through the 
murk, and instinctively I quickened my stride so as to pass 
it as soon as might be. 

I was almost abreast of it when a figure rose from be- 
neath it and slouched into the road to meet me. I stopped 
there and then, and grasping my heavy staff waited its 
approach. 

" Be that you, sir ? " said a voice, and I recognized the 
voice of Tom Cragg. 

" What are you doing — and there of all places ? " 

"Oh — I ain't af eared of 'im," answered Cragg, jerk- 
ing his thumb towards the gibbet, " I ain't afeard o' none 
as ever drawed breath — dead or livin' — except it be 'is 
'Ighness the Prince Regent." 

" And what do you want with me? " 



42 The Broad Highway 

" I 'opes as theer 's no offence, my lord," said he, 
knuckling his forehead, and speaking in a tone that was 
a strange mixture of would-be comradeship and cringing 
servility. " Cragg is my name, an' craggy 's my natur', 
but I know when I 'm beat. I knowed ye as soon as I laid 
my ' peepers ' on ye, an' if I said as it were a foul, why, 
when a man 's in 'is cups, d' ye see, 'e 's apt to shoot 
rayther wide o' the gospel, d' ye see, an' there was no 
offence, my lord, strike me blind! I know you, an' you 
know me — Tom Cragg by name an' craggy by " 

" But I don't know you," said I, " and, for that matter, 
neither do you know me." 

" W'y, you ain't got no whiskers, my lord — leastways, 
not with you now, but " 

" And what the devil has that got to do with it? " said 
I angrily. 

" Disguises, p'raps ! " said the fellow, with a sly leer, 
" arter that theer kidnappin' — an' me 'avin' laid out Sir 
Jarsper Trent, in Wych Street, accordin' to your orders, 
my lord, the Prince give me word to ' clear out ' — cut 
an' run for it, till it blow'd over; an' I thought, p'raps, 
knowin' as you an' 'im 'ad 'ad words, I thought as you 'ad 
- cut stick ' too " 

" And I think — that you are manifestly drunk," said 
I, " if you still wish tc fight, for any sum — no matter 
how small — put up your hands ; if not, get out of my 
road." The craggy one stepped aside, somewhat hastily, 
which done, he removed his hat and stood staring and 
scratching his bullet-head as one in sore perplexity. 

" I seen a many rum goes in my time," said he, " but I 
never see so rummy a go as this 'ere — strike me dead ! " 

So I left him, and strode on down the hill. As I went, 
the moon shot out a feeble ray, through some rift in the 
rolling clouds, and, looking back, I saw him standing where 
I had left him beneath the gibbet, still scratching his bullet- 
head, and staring after me down the hill. 

Now, though the whole attitude and behavior of the 
fellow was puzzling to no small degree, my mind was too 



Tom Cragg, the Pugilist 43 

full of my own concerns to give much thought to him — 
indeed, scarce was he out of my sight but I forgot him 
altogether; for, what with my weariness, the long, dark 
road before and behind me, and my empty pockets, I be- 
came a prey to great dejection. So much so that I pres- 
ently sank wearily beside the way, and, resting my chin in 
my hands, sat there, miserably enough, watching the night 
deepen about me. 

" And yet," said I to myself, " if, as Epictetus says — 
6 to despise a thing is to possess it,' then am I rich, for I 
have always despised money ; and if, weary as I am, I can 
manage to condemn the luxury of a feather bed, then to- 
night, lying in this grassy ditch beneath the stars, I shall 
slumber as sweetly as ever I did between the snowy sheets." 
Saying which, I rose and began to look about for some 
likely nook in the hedge, where I might pass the night. 
I was thus engaged when I heard the creak of wheels, and 
the pleasant rhythmic jingle of harness on the dark hill 
above, and, in a little while, a great wagon or wain, piled 
high with hay, hove into view, the driver of which rolled 
loosely in his seat with every jolt of the wheels, so that it 
was a wonder he did not roll off altogether. As he came 
level with me I hailed him loudly, whereupon he started 
erect and brought his horses to a stand : 

" Hulloa ! " he bellowed, in the loud, strident tone of one 
rudely awakened, " w'at do 'ee want wi' I ? " 

" A lift," I answered, " will you give a tired fellow a lift 
on his way ? " 

" W'y — I dunno — be you a talkin' chap ? " 

" I don't think so," said I. 

" Because, if you be a talkin' chap, I beant a-goin' to 
grve 'ee a lift, no'ow — not if I knows it ; give a chap a 
lift, t' other day, I did — took 'im up t' other side o' Seven- 
oaks, an' 'e talked me up 'ill an' down 'ill, 'e did — dang 
me ! if I could get a wink o' sleep all the way to Tonbridge ; 
so if you 'm a talkin' chap, you don't get no lift wi* I." 

" I am generally a very silent chap," said I ; " besides, I 
am too tired and sleepy to talk, even if I wished " 



44 The Broad Highway 

" Sleepy," yawned the man, " then up you get, my chap 
— I 'm sleepy too — I alius am, Lord love ye ! theer 's 
nowt like sleep — up wi' you, my chap." Forthwith, up 
I clambered, and, laying myself down among the fragrant 
hay, stretched out my tired limbs, and sighed. Never shall 
I forget the delicious sense of restfulness that stole over me 
as I lay there upon my back, listening to the creak of the 
wheels, the deliberate hoof-strokes of the horses, muffled in 
the thick dust of the road, and the gentle snore of the driver 
who had promptly fallen asleep again. On we went as if 
borne on air, so soft was my bed, now beneath the far-flung 
branches of trees, sometimes so low that I could have 
touched them with my hand, now, beneath a sky heavy with 
sombre masses of flying cloud or bright with the soft radi- 
ance of the moon. On I went, careless alike of destination, 
of time, and of future, content to lie there upon the hay, 
and rest. And so, lulled by the gentle movement, by the 
sound of wheels and harness, and the whisper of the soft 
wind about me, I presently fell into a most blessed sleep. 



CHAPTER VXH 



WHISKERS AND A WAISTCOAT 



How long I slept I have no idea, but when I opened my eyes 
it was to find the moon shining down on me from a cloudless 
heaven ; the wind also had died away ; it seemed my early 
fears of a wild night were not to be fulfilled, and for this 
I was sufficiently grateful. Now as I lay, blinking up to 
the moon, I presently noticed that we had come to a stand- 
still and I listened expectantly for the jingle of harness and 
creak of the wheels to recommence. " Strange I " said I to 
myself, after having waited vainly some little time, and won- 
dering what could cause the delay, I sat up and looked 
about me. The first object my eyes encountered was a 
haystack and, beyond that, another, with, a little to one 
side, a row of barns, and again beyond these, a great, 
rambling farmhouse. Evidently the wain had reached 
its destination, wherever that might be, and the sleepy 
wagoner, forgetful of my presence, had tumbled off to bed. 
The which I thought so excellent an example that I lay 
down again, and, drawing the loose hay over me, closed 
my eyes, and once more fell asleep. 

My second awakening was gradual. I at first became 
conscious of a sound, rising and falling with a certain 
monotonous regularity, that my drowsy ears could make 
nothing of. Little by little, however, the sound developed 
itself into a somewhat mournful melody or refrain, chanted 
by a not unmusical voice. I yawned and, having stretched 
myself, sat up to look and listen. And the words of the 
song were these: 



46 The Broad Highway 

" When a man, who muffins cries, 
Cries not, when his father dies, 
'T is a proof that he would rather 
Have a muffin than his father." 

The singer was a tall, strapping fellow with a good- 
tempered face, whose ruddy health was set off by a 
handsome pair of black whiskers. As I watched him, he 
laid aside the pitchfork he had been using, and approached 
the wagon, but, chancing to look up, his eye met mine, and 
he stopped: 

" Hulloa ! " he exclaimed, breaking short off in the 
middle of a note, " hulloa ! " 

" Hallo ! " said I. 

" Wat be doin' up theer? " 

" I was thinking," I returned, " that, under certain cir- 
cumstances, I, for one, could not blame the individual, 
mentioned in your song, for his passionate attachment to 
muffins. At this precise moment a muffin, — or, say, five 
or six, would be highly acceptable, personally." 

" Be you partial to muffins, then? " 

" Yes, indeed," said I, " more especially seeing I have 
not broken my fast since midday yesterday." 

" Well, an' w'at be doin' in my hay ? " 

" I have been asleep," said I. 

" Well, an' what business 'ave ye got a-sleepin' an' 
a-snorin' in my hay? " 

" I was tired," said I, " and ' Nature her custom holds, 
let shame say what it will,' still — I do not think I snored." 

" 'Ow do I know that — or you, for that matter ? " re- 
joined the farmer, stroking his glossy whiskers, " hows'- 
ever, if you be quite awake, come on down out o' my hay." 
As he said this he eyed me with rather a truculent air, like- 
wise he clenched his fist. Thinking it wisest to appear un- 
conscious of this, I nodded affably, and letting myself down 
from the hay, was next moment standing beside him. 

" Supposin' I was to thump 'ee on the nose?" he 
inquired. 

"What for?" 



Farmer's Whiskers and Waistcoat 47 

" For makin' so free wi' my hay." 

" Why then," said I, " I should earnestly endeavor to 
thump you on yours." 

The farmer looked me slowly over from head to foot, 
with a dawning surprise. 

" Thought you was a common tramper, I did," said 
he. 

" Why, so I am," I answered, brushing the clinging hay 
from me. 

" Trampers o' the road don't wear gentlemen's clothes 
■ — leastways, I never see one as did." Here his eyes wan- 
dered over me again, from my boots upward. Half-way up, 
they stopped, evidently arrested by my waistcoat, a flowered 
satin of the very latest cut, for which I had paid forty 
shillings in the Haymarket, scarcely a week before; and, 
as I looked down at it, I would joyfully have given it, and 
every waistcoat that was ever cut, to have had that forty 
shillings safe back in my pocket again. 

" That be a mighty fine weskit, sir ! " 

" Do you think so ? " said I. 

" Ah, that I do — w'at might be the cost of a weskit 
the like o' that, now? " 

" I paid forty shillings for it, in the Haymarket, in 
London, scarcely a week ago," I answered. The fellov 
very slowly closed one eye at the same time striking his 
nose three successive raps with his forefinger: 

" Gammon ! " said he. 

" None the less, it 's true," said I. 

" Any man as would give forty shillin' for a garment 
as is no mortal good agen the cold — not reachin' fur 
enough, even if it do be silk, an' all worked wi' little flowers 
— is a dommed fool ! " 

" Assuredly ! " said I, with a nod. 

" Howsomever," he continued, " it 's a handsome weskit, 
there 's no denyin', an' well worth a woman's lookin' at — 
wi' a proper man inside of it." 

" Not a doubt of it," said I. 

" I mean," said he, scratching his ear, and staring hard 



48 The Broad Highway 

at the handle of the pitchfork, " a chap wi' a fine pair o' 
whiskers, say." 

"Hum!" said I. 

" Now, woman," he went on, shifting his gaze to the 
top button of his left gaiter, " woman is uncommon 
fond o' a good pair o' whiskers — leastways, so I 've 
heerd." 

" Indeed," said I, " few women can look upon such 
things unmoved, I believe, and nothing can set off a pair 
of fine, black whiskers better than a flowered satin 
waistcoat." 

" That 's so ! " nodded the farmer. 

" But, unfortunately," said I, passing my hand ov*>r 
my smooth lips and chin, " I have no whiskers." 

" No," returned the farmer, with a thoughtful shake of 
the head, " leastways, none as I can observe." 

" Now, you have," said I. 

" So they do tell me," he answered modestly. 

" And the natural inference is that you ought to have 
a flowered waistcoat to go with them." 

" Why, that 's true, to be sure ! " he nodded. 

" The price of this one is — fifteen shillings," said I. 

" That 's a lot o' money, master," said he, shaking his 
head. 

" It 's a great deal less than forty," said I. 

" An' ten is less than fifteen, an' ten shillin' is my price ; 
what d' ye say — come now." 

" You drive a hard bargain," said I, " but the waist- 
coat is yours at your own price." So saying, I slipped off 
knapsack and coat, and removing the garment in question, 
having first felt through the pockets, handed it to him, 
whereupon he slowly counted the ten shillings into my 
hand; which done, he sat down upon the shaft of a cart 
near by, and, spreading out the waistcoat on his knees> 
looked it over with glistening eyes. 

" Forty shillin' you paid for 'un, up to Lunnon," said 
he, " forty shillin' it were, I think? " 

" Forty shillings ! " said I. 



Farmer's Whiskers and Waistcoat 49 

" Ecod, it 's a sight o' money ! But it 's a grand weskit 
— ah, that it is ! " 

" So you believe me now, do you? " said I, pocketing the 
ten shillings. 

" Well," he answered slowly, " I won't go so fur as that, 
but 't is a mighty fine weskit theer 's no denyin', an' must 
ha' cost a sight o' money — a powerful sight ! " I picked 
up my knapsack and, slipping it on, took my staff, and 
turned to depart. " Theer 's a mug o' home-brewed, an' a 
slice o' fine roast beef up at th' 'ouse, if you should be so 
inclined " 

" Why, as to that," said I, over my shoulder, " I neither 
eat nor drink with a man who doubts my word." 

" Meanin' those forty shillin'? " 

" Precisely ! " 

" Well," said he, twisting his whisker with a thoughtful 
air, " if you could manage to mak' it twenty — or even 
twenty-five, I might mak' some shift to believe it — though 
'twould be a strain, but forty! — no. damme, I can't 
swaller that ! " 

" Then, neither can I swallow your beef and ale," said I. 

" Wheer be goin' ? " he inquired, rising, and following 
as I made for the gate. 

" To the end of the road," I answered. 

" Then you be goin' pretty fur — that theer road leads 
to the sea." 

" Why, then I 'm going to the sea," said I. 

"What to do?" 

" I have n't the ghost of an idea," I returned. 

" Can you work? " 

" Yes," said I. 

" Can ye thatch a rick? " 

" No," said I. 

"Shear a sheep?" 

" No," said I. 

"Guide a plough?" 

" No," said I. 

"Shoea'oss?" , 



50 The Broad Highway 

" No," said I. 

" Then ye can't work — Lord love me, wheer 'ave 'e 
been?" 

" At a university," said I. 

" Where, master ? " 

" At a place warranted to turn one out a highly edu- 
cated incompetent," I explained. 

" Why, I don't hold wi' eddication nor book-larnin', 
myself, master. Here I be wi' a good farm, an' money 
in the bank, an' can't write my own name," said the farmer. 

" And here am I, a ' first ' in ' Litteras Humaniores,' 
selling my waistcoat that I may eat," said I. Being come 
to the gate of the yard, I paused. " There is one favor 
you might grant me," said I. 

" As what, master? " 

" Five minutes under the pump yonder, and a clean 
towel." The farmer nodded, and crossing to one of the 
outhouses, presently returned with a towel. And, resting 
the towel upon the pump-head, he seized the handle, and 
sent a jet of clear, cool water over my head, and face, and 
hands. 

" You 've got a tidy, sizeable arm," said he, as I dried 
myself vigorously, " likewise a good strong back an' shoul- 
ders ; theer 's the makin's of a man in you as might do 
summat — say in the plough or smithin' way, but it 's easy 
to see as you 're a gentleman, more 's the pity, an' won't. 
Hows'ever, sir, if you 've a mind to a cut o' good beef, an' 
a mug o' fine ale — say the word." 

" First," said I, " do you believe it was forty shillings — 
yes or no ? " 

The farmer twisted his whisker, and stared very hard at 
the spout of the pump. 

" Tell 'ee what," said he at length, " mak' it thirty, an' 
I give ye my Bible oath to do the best wi' it I can." 

" Then I must needs seek my breakfast at the nearest 
inn," said I. 

" An' that is the * Old Cock,' a mile an' a half nearer 
Tonbridge." 



Farmer's Whiskers and Waistcoat 5 1 

" Then the sooner I start the better," said I, " for I 'm 
mightily sharp set." 

" Why, as to that," said he, busy with his whisker again, 
" I might stretch a pint or two an' call it — thirty-five, 
at a pinch — what d* ye say ? " 

" Why, I say 6 good morning,' and many of them ! " 
And, opening the gate, I started off down the road at a 
brisk pace. Now, as I went, it began to rain. 



BOSTON UNIVERSITY 
COLLEGE OP ARTS 



CHAPTER IX 

IN WHICH I STUMBLE UPON AN AFFAIR OF HONOR 

There are times (as I suppose) when the most aesthetic 
of souls will forget the snow of lilies, and the down of a 
butterfly's wing, to revel in the grosser joys of, say, a 
beefsteak. One cannot rhapsodize upon the beauties of 
a sunset, or contemplate the pale witchery of the moon 
with any real degree of poetic fervor, or any degree of 
comfort, while hunger gnaws at one's vitals, for comfort 
is essential to your aesthete, and, after all, soul goes hand 
in hand with stomach. 

Thus, I swung along the road beneath the swaying green 
of trees, past the fragrant, blooming hedges, paying small 
heed to the beauties of wooded hill and grassy dale, my 
eyes constantly searching the road before me for some sign 
of the " Old Cock " tavern. And presently, sure enough, 
I espied it, an ugly, flat-fronted building, before which 
stood a dilapidated horse trough and a battered sign. 
Despite its uninviting exterior, I hurried forward, and 
mounting the three worn steps pushed open the door. I 
now found myself in a room of somewhat uninviting aspect, 
though upon the hearth a smouldering fire was being kicked 
into a blaze by a sulky-faced fellow, to whom I addressed 
myself. 

" Can I have some breakfast here ? " said I. 

" Why, it 's all according, master," he answered, in a 
surly tone. 

" According to what? " said I. 

" According to what you want, master." 

" Why, as to that " I began. 



I Stumble upon an Affair of Honor 53 

" Because," he went on, administering a particularly 
vicious kick to the fire, " if you was to ask me for a French 
hortolon — or even the 'ump of a cam-el — being a very 
truthful man, I should say — no." 

" But I want no such things," said I. 

" And 'ow am I to know that — 'ow am I to know as 
you ain't set your 'eart on the 'ump of a cam-el? " 

" I tell you I want nothing of the sort," said I, " a chop 
would do " 

" Chop ! " sighed the man, scowling threateningly at the 
fire, "chop!" 

" Or steak," I hastened to add. 

" Now it 's a steak!" said the man, shaking his head 
ruefully, and turning upon me a doleful eye, " a steak ! " 
he repeated ; " of course — it would be ; I s'pose you 'd 
turn up your nose at 'am and eggs — it 's only to be 
expected." 

" On the contrary," said I, " ham and eggs will suit me 
very well ; why could n't you have mentioned them before ? " 

" Why, you never axed me as I remember," growled the 
fellow. 

Slipping my knapsack from my shoulders, I sat down 
at a small table in a corner while the man, with a final 
kick at the fire, went to give my order. In a few minutes 
he reappeared with some billets of wood beneath his arm, 
and followed by a merry-eyed, rosy-cheeked lass, who pro- 
ceeded, very deftly, to lay a snowy cloth and thereupon, 
in due season, a dish of savory ham and golden-yolked 
eggs. 

" It 's a lovely morning ! " said I, lifting my eyes to 
her comely face. 

" It is indeed, sir," said she, setting down the cruet with 
a turn of her slender wrist. 

" Which I make so bold as to deny," said the surly man, 
dropping the wood on the hearth with a prodigious clatter, 
" 'ow can any morning be lovely when there ain't no love 
in it — no, not so much as would fill a thimble? I say it 
aiw't a lovely morning, not by no manner o' means, and 



54 The Broad Highway 

what I says I ain't ashamed on, being a nat'rally truthful 
man ! " With which words he sighed, kicked the fire again, 
and stumped out. 

" Our friend would seem somewhat gloomy this morn- 
ing," said I. 

" He 've been that way a fortnight now, come Satu'day," 
replied the slim lass, nodding. 

"Oh? "said I. 

" Yes," she continued, checking a smile, and sighing in- 
stead ; " it 's very sad, he 've been crossed in love you see, 
sir." 

" Poor fellow ! " said I, " can't you try to console 
him?" 

" Me, sir — oh no ! " 

"And why not? I should think you might console a 
man for a great deal." 

" Why, you see, sir," said she, blushing and dimpling 
very prettily, " it do so happen as I 'm the one as crossed 
him." 

" Ah ! — I understand," said I. 

" I 'm to be married to a farmer — down the road yon- 
der ; leastways, I have n't quite made up my mind yet." 

" A fine, tall fellow? " I inquired. 

" Yes — do 'ee know him, sir ? " 

" With a handsome pair of black whiskers ? " said I. 

" The very same, sir, and they do be handsome whiskers, 
though I do say it." 

" The finest I ever saw. I wish you every happiness," 
said I. 

" Thankee sir, I 'm sure," said she, and, dimpling more 
prettily than ever, she tripped away, and left me to my 
repast. 

And when I had assuaged my hunger, I took out the 
pipe of Adam, the groom, the pipe shaped like a negro's 
head, and, calling for a paper of tobacco, I filled and 
lighted the pipe, and sat staring dreamily out of the 
window. 

Happy is that man who, by reason of an abundant for- 



I Stumble upon an Affair of Honor 55 

tune, knows not the meaning of the word hunger ; but 
thrice happy is he who, when the hand of famine pinches, 
may stay his craving with such a meal as this of mine. 
Never before, and never since have I tasted just such eggs, 
and such ham — so tender ! so delicate ! so fuh^ of flavor ! 
It is a memory that can never fade. Indeed, sometimes 
(even now), when I grow hungry, (about dinner-time) I 
see once more the surly-faced man, the rosy-cheeked wait- 
ing-maid, and the gloomy chamber of the " Old Cock " 
tavern as I saw them upon that early May morning of the 
year of grace 18 — . 

So I sat, with a contented mind, smoking my pipe, and 
staring out at the falling summer rain. And presently, 
chancing to turn my eyes up the road, I beheld a chaise that 
galloped in a smother of mud. As I watched its rapid ap- 
proach, the postilion swung his horses towards the inn, and 
a moment later had pulled up before the door. They had 
evidently travelled fast and far, for the chaise was covered 
with dirt, and the poor horses, in a lather of foam, hung 
their heads, while their flanks heaved distressfully. 

The chaise door was now thrown open, and three gentle- 
men alighted. The first was a short, plethoric individual, 
bull-necked and loud of voice, for I could hear him roundly 
cursing the post-boy for some fault ; the second was a tall, 
languid gentleman, who carried a flat, oblong box beneath 
one arm, and who paused to fondle his whisker, and look 
up at the inn with an exaggerated air of disgust ; while the 
third stood mutely by, his hands thrust into the pockets 
of his greatcoat, and stared straight before him. 

The three of them entered the room together, and, while 
the languid gentleman paused to survey himself in the 
small, cracked mirror that hung against the wall, the 
plethoric individual bustled to the fire, and, loosening his 
coats and neckerchief, spread out his hands to the 
blaze. 

" A good half-hour before our time," said he, glancing 
towards the third gentleman, who stood looking out of the 
window with his hands still deep in his pockets ; " we did 



56 The Broad Highway 

the last ten miles well under the hour — come, what do 
you say to a glass of brandy? " 

At this, his languid companion turned from the mirror, 
and I noticed that he, too, glanced at the silent figure by 
the window. 

" By all means," said he, " though Sir Jasper would 
hardly seem in a drinking humor," and, with the very 
slightest shrug of the shoulders, he turned back to the 
mirror again. 

" No, Mr. Chester, I am not — in a drinking humor," 
answered Sir Jasper, without turning round, or taking 
his eyes from the window. 

" Sir Jasper? " said I to myself, " now where, and in 
what connection, have I heard such a name before? " 

He was of a slight build, and seemingly younger than 
either of his companions by some years, but what struck 
me particularly about him was the extreme pallor of his 
face. I noticed also a peculiar habit he had of moistening 
his lips at frequent intervals with the tip of his tongue, and 
there was, besides, something in the way he stared at the 
trees, the wet road, and the gray sky — a strange wide- 
eyed intensity — that drew and held my attention. 

" Devilish weather — devilish, on my life and soul ! " 
exclaimed the short, red-faced man, in a loud, peevish 
tone, tugging viciously at the bell-rope, " hot one day, 

cold the next, now sun, now rain Oh, damn it! 

Now in France — ah, what a climate — heavenly — posi- 
tively divine ; say what you will of a Frenchman, damn 
him by all means, but the climate, the country, and the 
women — who would not worship 'em ? " 

" Exactly ! " said the languid gentleman, examining a 
pimple upon his chin with a high degree of interest, " al- 
ways 'dored a Frenchwoman myself ; they 're so — so — 
ah — so deuced French, though mark you, Selby," he broke 
off, as the rosy-cheeked maid appeared with the brandy and 
glasses, " though mark you, there 's much to be said for 
your English country wenches, after all," saying which, he 
slipped his arm about the girl's round waist. There was the 



I Stumble upon an Affair of Honor 57 

sound of a kiss, a muffled shriek, and she had run from the 
room, slamming the door behind her, whereupon the languid 
gentleman went back to his pimple. 

" Oh ! as to that, Chester, I quarrel only with the climate. 
God made England, and the devil sends the weather ! " 

" Selby," said Sir Jasper, in the same repressed tone 
that he had used before and still without taking his eyes 
from the gray prospect of sky and tree and winding road, 
" there is no fairer land, in all the world, than this England 
of ours ; it were a good thing to die — for England, but 
that is a happiness reserved for comparatively few." And, 
with the words, he sighed, a strange, fluttering sigh, and 
thrust his hands deeper into his pockets. 

" Die ! " repeated the man Selby, in a loud, boisterous 
way. " Who talks of death? " 

"Deuced unpleasant subject!" said the other, with a 
shrug at the cracked mirror. " Something so infernally 
cold and clammy about it — like the weather." 

" And yet it will be a glorious day later. The clouds 
are thinning already," Sir Jasper went on ; " strange, but 
I never realized, until this morning, how green — and won- 
derful — everything is ! " 

The languid Mr. Chester forgot the mirror, and turned 
to stare at Sir Jasper's back, with raised brows, while the 
man Selby shook his head, and smiled unpleasantly. As he 
did so, his eye encountered me, where I sat, quietly in my 
corner, smoking my negro-head pipe, and his thick brows 
twitched sharply together in a frown. 

" In an hour's time, gentlemen," pursued Sir Jasper, 
" we shall write ' finis ' to a more or less interesting inci- 
dent, and I beg of you, in that hour, to remember my 
prophecy — that it would be a glorious day, later." 

Mr. Chester filled a glass, and crossing to the speaker, 
tendered it to him without a word; as for Selby, he stood 
stolidly enough, his hands thrust truculently beneath his 
coat-tails, frowning at me. 

" Come," said Mr. Chester persuasively, " just a 
bracer ! " Sir Jasper shook his head, but next moment 



58 The Broad Highway 

reached out a white, unsteady hand, and raised the brandy 
to his lips ; yet as he drank, I saw the spirit slop over, and 
trickle from his chin. 

" Thanks, Chester," said he, returning the empty glass ; 
" is it time we started yet ? " 

" It 's just half-past seven," answered Mr. Chester, con- 
sulting his watch, " and I 'm rather hazy as to the exact 
place." 

" Deepdene Wood," said Sir Jasper dreamily. 

" You know the place? " 

" Oh, yes ! " 

" Then we may as well start, if you are ready ? " 

" Yes, it will be cool and fresh, outside." 

" Settle the bill, Selby, we '11 walk on slowly," said Mr. 
Chester, and, with a last glance at the mirror, he slipped 
his arm within Sir Jasper's, and they went out together. 

Mr. Selby meanwhile rang for the bill, frowning at me 
all the time. 

" What the devil are you staring at? " he demanded 
suddenly, in a loud, bullying tone. 

" If you are pleased to refer to me, sir," said I, " I 
would say that my eyes were given for use, and that hav- 
ing used them upon you, I have long since arrived at the 
conclusion that I don't like you." 

" Ah? " said he, frowning fiercer than ever. 

" Yes," said I, " though whether it is your person, your 
manner, or your voice that displeases me most, I am unable 
to say." 

" An impertinent young j ackanapes ! " said he ; " dam- 
nation, I think I '11 pull your nose ! " 

" Why, you may try, and welcome, sir," said I, " though 
I should advise you not, for should you make the attempt 
I should be compelled to throw you out of the window." 

At this moment the pretty maid appeared, and tendered 
him the bill with a curtesy. He glanced at it, tossed some 
money upon the table, and turned to stare at me again. 

" If ever I meet you again " he began. 

" You 'd probably know me," I put in. 



I Stumble upon an Affair of Honor 59 

" Without a doubt," he answered, putting on his hat 
and buttoning his befrogged surtout ; " and should you," 
he continued, drawing on his gloves, " should you stare at 
me with those damned, impertinent fishes' eyes of yours, 
I should, most certainly, pull your nose for you — on the 
spot, sir." 

" And I should as certainly throw you out of the win- 
dow ! " I nodded. 

"An impertinent young jackanapes!" said he again, 
and went out, banging the door behind him. Glancing 
from the window, I saw him catch up with the other two, 
and all three walk on together down the road. Sir Jasper 
was in the middle, and I noticed that his hands were still 
deep in his pockets. Now, as I watched their forms getting 
smaller and smaller in the distance, there grew upon me a 
feeling that he who walked between would nevermore come 
walking back. 

And, in a little, having knocked out my negro-head pipe 
upon my palm, I called for and settled my score. As I 
rose, the pretty chambermaid picked up my knapsack from 
the corner, and blushing, aided me to put it on. 

" My dear, thank you," said I, and kissed her. This 
time she neither shrieked nor ran from the room; she 
merely blushed a trifle rosier. 

" Do you think I have fishes' eyes, my dear? " 

" La ! no, sir — handsome they be, I 'm sure, so bright 
an' black an' wi' little lights a-dancing in them — there, 
sir, do ha' done, and go along wi' you ! " 

" By the way," I said, pausing upon the worn steps, 
and looking back at her, " by the way, how far is it to 
Deepdene Wood? " 



CHAPTER X 

WHICH RELATES THE END OF AN HONORABLE AFFAIR 

$ome half-mile along the road, upon the left hand, was a 
stile, and beyond the stile, a path — a path that led away 
over field, and meadow, and winding stream, to the blue 
verge of distant woods. 

Now, midway between these woods and the place where 
I stood, there moved three figures ; and, far away though 
they were, I could still make out that the middle one walked 
with his hands — those tremulous, betraying hands — 
thrust deep within his pockets. 

And presently I climbed the stile, and set off along the 
path. 

"Sir Jasper!" said I to myself. Somewhere in the 
background of my consciousness I had a vague recollec- 
tion of having heard mention of such a name before, but 
exactly when and where I could not, for the life of me, 
remember. 

" Sir Jasper ! " said I to myself again. " It is a very 
uncommon name, and should be easy to recollect." I had 
often prided myself on possessing a singularly retentive 
memory, more especially for names and faces, but, upon 
the present occasion, the more I pondered the matter, the 
more hazy I became. So I walked on through the sweet, 
wet grass, racking my brain for a solution of the problem, 
but finding none. 

When I again looked up, the three figures had vanished 
where the path took a sharp bend round a clump of pollard 
oaks, and, determined not to lose them, I hurried my steps ; 



Tne End of an Honorable Affair 61 

but when I, in turn, rounded the corner, not a soul was 
in sight. 

The path sloped up gently before me, with a thick hedge 
upon my right, and, after crossing a brawling stream, lost 
itself in the small wood or coppice, that crowned the 
ascent. Wondering, I hastened forward, and then, hap- 
pening to look through, the hedge, which grew very thick 
and high, I stopped all at once. 

On the other side of the hedge was a strip of meadow 
bounded by the brook I have mentioned; now across this 
stream was a small rustic bridge, and on this bridge was 
a man. Midway between this man and myself stood a group 
of four gentlemen, all talking very earnestly together, to 
judge by their actions, while somewhat apart from these, 
his head bent, his hands still thrust deep in his pockets, 
stood Sir Jasper. And from him, for no apparent reason, 
my eyes wandered to the man upon the bridge — a tall, 
broad-shouldered fellow, in a buff-colored greatcoat, who 
whistled to himself, and stared down into the stream, 
swinging his tasselled riding-boot to and fro. All at once, 
as if in response to some signal, he rose, and unbuttoning 
his surtout, drew it off and flung it across the handrail of 
the bridge. 

Mr. Chester was on his knees before the oblong box, 
and I saw the glint of the pistols as he handed them up. 
The distance had already been paced and marked out, and 
now each man took his ground — Sir Jasper, still in his 
greatcoat, his hat over his eyes, his neckerchief loose and 
dangling, one hand in his pocket, the other grasping his 
weapon ; his antagonist, on the contrary, j aunty and debon- 
nair, a dandy from the crown of his hat to the soles of 
his shining boots. 

Their arms were raised almost together. The man Selby 
glanced from one to the other, a handkerchief fluttered, 
fell, and in that instant came the report of a pistol. I saw 
Sir Jasper reel backward, steady himself, and fire in return ; 
then, while the blue smoke yet hung in the still air, he 
staggered blindly, and fell. 



62 The Broad Highway 

Mr. Chester, and two or three more, ran forward and 
knelt beside him, while his opponent shrugged his shoulders, 
and, taking off his hat, pointed out the bullet hole to his 
white-faced second. 

And in a little while they lifted Sir Jasper in their arms, 
but seeing how his head hung, a sudden sickness came upon 
me, for I knew, indeed, that he would go walking back 
nevermore. Yet his eyes were wide and staring — staring 
up at the blue heaven with the same fixed intensity as they 
had done at the inn. 

Then I, too, looked up at the cloudless sky, and round 
upon the fair earth; and, in that moment, I, for one, re- 
membered his prophecy of an hour ago. And, indeed, the 
day was glorious. 



CHAPTER XI 

WHICH RELATES A BRIEF PASSAGE-AT-ARMS AT 



In due season I came into Tonbridge town, and following' 
the High Street, presently observed a fine inn upon the 
right-hand side of the way, which, as I remember, is called 
" The Chequers." And here were divers loiterers, lounging 
round the door, or seated upon the benches ; but the eyes 
of all were turned the one way. 

And presently, as I paused before the inn, to look up at 
its snow-white plaster, and massive cross-beams, there 
issued from the stable yard one in a striped waistcoat, with 
top-boots and a red face, who took a straw from behind his 
ear, and began to chew it meditatively; to whom I now 
addressed myself. 

" Good afternoon ! " said I. 

" Arternoon ! " he answered. 

" A fine day ! " said I. 

"Is it?" said he. 

" Why — to be sure it is," said I, somewhat taken aback 
by his manner; " to be sure it is." 

" Oh ! " said he, and shifted the straw very dexterously 
from one corner of his mouth to the other, by some unseen 
agency, and stared up the road harder than ever. 

" What are you looking at ? " I inquired. 

" 'HI," said he. 

" And why do you look at the hill? " 

" Mail," said he. 

"Oh!"saidI. 



64 The Broad Highway 

"Ah!" said he. 

" Is it the London coach? " 

"Ah!" said he. 

" Does it stop here? " 

"Ah!" said he. 

" Do you ever say anything much beside ' ah ' ? " I 
inquired. 

He stopped chewing the straw, and with his eyes on the 
distance, seemed to turn this question over in his mind; 
having done which, he began to chew again. 

"Ah!" said he. 

" Why, then you can, perhaps, tell me how many miles 
it is " 

" Five," said he. 

" I was about to ask how far it was to " 

" The Wells ! " said he. 

" Why — yes, to be sure, but how did you know that? " 

"It's use!" said he. 

" What do you mean ? " 

"They all ask!" said he. 

"Who do?" 

" Tramps ! " said he. 

" Oh ! so you take me for a tramp ? " 

"Ah!" said he. 

" And you," said I, "put me in mind of a certain Semi- 
quavering Friar." 

" Eh? " said he, frowning a little at the hill. 

" You 've never heard of Rabelais, or Panurge, of 
course," said L The Ostler took out his straw, eyed it 
thoughtfully, and put it back again. 

" No," said he. 

" More 's the pity ! " said I, and was about to turn away, 
when he drew the nearest fist abruptly from his pocket, and 
extended it towards me. 

" Look at that ! " he commanded. 

" Rather dirty," I commented, " but otherwise a good, 
useful member, I make no doubt." 

" It *s a-goin'," said he, alternately drawing in and 



At « The Chequers" Inn 65 

shooting out the fist in question, " it 's a-goin' to fill your 
eye up." 

" Is it? " said I. 

"Ah!" said he. 

"But what for?" 

" I are n't a Semmy, nor yet a Quaver, an' as for Friers," 
said he, very deliberately, " why — Frier yourself, says I." 

" Nevertheless," said I, " you are gifted with a certain 
terse directness of speech that greatly reminds me of " 

" Joe !" he called out suddenly over his shoulder. "Mail, 
Joe!" 

Lifting my eyes to the brow of the hfll, I could see noth- 
ing save a faint haze, which, however, gradually grew 
denser and thicker; and out from this gathering cloud, 
soft, and faint with distance, stole the silvery notes of a 
horn. Now I saw the coach itself, and, as I watched it 
rapidly descending the hill, I longed to be upon it, with 
the sun above, the smooth road below, and the wind rushing 
through my hair. On it came at a gallop, rocking and 
swaying, a good fifteen miles an hour; on it came, plung- 
ing into the green shade of trees, and out into the sun 
again, with ever the gathering dust cloud behind; while 
clear and high rang the cheery note of the horn. And now, 
from the cool shadows of the inn yard, there rose a pro- 
digious stamping of hoofs, rattling of chains, and swear- 
ing of oaths, and out came four fresh horses, led by two 
men, each of whom wore top-boots, a striped waistcoat, 
and chewed upon straws. 

And now the coach swung round the bend, and came 
thundering down upon " The Chequers," chains jingling, 
wheels rumbling, horn braying and, with a stamp and ring 
of hoof, pulled up before the inn. 

And then what a running to and fro ! what a prodigious 
unbuckling and buckling of straps, while the jovial-faced 
coachman fanned himself with his hat, and swore jovially 
at the ostlers, and the ostlers swore back at the coachman, 
and the guard, and the coach, and the horses, individually 
and collectively; in the midst of which confusion, down 



66 The Broad Highway 

came the window with a bang, and out of the window came 
a flask, and a hand, and an arm, and, last of all, a great, 
fat face, round, and mottled, and roaring as it came : 

" Oho — I say damn it ! damn everybody's eyes and 
bones — brandy ! O yoho, house — I say brandy ! Guard, 
landlord, ostlers — brandy, d' ye hear ? I say, what the 
devil ! Am I to die for want of a drop of brandy ? Oho ! " 

Now, little by little, I became conscious (how, I cannot 
define) that I was the object of a close and persistent 
scrutiny — that I was being watched and stared at by 
some one near by. Shifting my eyes, therefore, from the 
mottled face at the coach window, I cast them swiftly about 
until they presently met those of one of the four outside 
passengers — a tall, roughly-clad man who leaned far out 
from the coach roof, watching me intently; and his face 
was thin, and very pale, and the eyes which stared into 
mine glowed beneath a jagged prominence of brow. 

At the time, though I wondered at the man's expression, 
-and the fixity of his gaze, I paid him no further heed, but 
turned my attention back to Mottle-face, who had, by this 
time, bellowed himself purple. Howbeit, in due time, the 
flask having been replenished and handed to him, he dived 
back into the recesses of the coach, jerked up the window, 
and vanished as suddenly as he had appeared. 

But now the four fresh horses were in and harnessed, 
capering and dancing with an ostler at the head of each; 
the Driver tossed off his glass of rum and water, cast an 
eye up at the clouds, remarked : " Wind, by Gemini ! " 
settled his feet against the dashboard, and gathered up the 
reins. And now, too, the Guard appeared, wiping his lips 
as he came, who also cast an eye up at the heavens, 
l remarked: " Dust, by Jingo ! " and swung himself up into 
the rumble. 

" All right behind? " sang out the Driver, over his 
shoulder. 

" All right ! " sang back the guard. 

" Then — let 'em go ! " cried the Driver. Whereupon 
the ostlers jumped nimbly back, the horses threw up their 



At "The Chequers" Inn 67 

heads, and danced undecidedly for a moment, the long 
whip cracked, hoofs clattered, sparks flew, and, rumbling 
and creaking, off went the London Mail with such a flourish 
of the horn as woke many a sleepy echo, near and far. As 
I turned away, I noticed that there remained but three out- 
side passengers ; the pale-faced man had evidently alighted, 
yet, although I glanced round for him, he was nowhere to 
be seen. 

Hereupon, being in no mind to undergo the operation of 
having my eye filled up, and, moreover, finding myself 
thirsty, I stepped into the " Tap." And there, sure 
enough, was the Outside Passenger staring moodily out of 
the window, and with an untouched mug of ale at his elbow. 
Opposite him sat an old man in a smock frock, who leaned 
upon a holly-stick, talking to a very short, fat man behind 
the bar, who took my twopence with a smile, smiled as he 
drew my ale, and, smiling, watched me drink. 

" Be you from Lunnon, sir? " inquired the old man, eye- 
ing me beneath his hoary brows as I set down my tankard. 

" Yes," said I. 

" Well, think o' that now — I 've been a-goin' to Lun- 
non this five an' forty year — started out twice, I did* 
but I never got no furder nor Sevenoaks ! " 

" How was that? " I inquired. 

" Why, theer 's ' The White Hart ' at Sevenoaks, an' 
they brews fine ale at ' The White Hart,' d' ye see, an' one 
glass begets another." 

" And they sent ye back in the carrier's cart ! " said the 
fat man, smiling broader than ever. 

" Ever see the Lord Mayor a-ridin' in 'is goold coach, 
sir? " pursued the old man. 

" Yes," said I. 

" Ever speak to 'im ? " 

" Why, no." 

" Ah well, I once knowed a man as spoke to the Lord 
Mayor o' Lunnon' s coachman — but 'e 's dead, took the 
smallpox the year arterwards an' died, 'e did." 

At this juncture the door was thrown noisily open, and 



68 The Broad Highway 

two gentlemen entered. The first was a very tall man with 
black hair that curled beneath his hat-brim, and so luxuriant 
a growth of whisker that it left little of his florid counte- 
nance exposed. The second was more slightly built, with a 
pale, hairless face, wherein were set two small, very bright 
eyes, rather close together, separated by a high, thin nose 
with nostrils that worked and quivered when he spoke, a 
face whose most potent feature was the mouth, coarse and 
red, with a somewhat protuberant under lip, yet supported 
by a square, determined chin below — a sensual mouth with 
more than a suspicion of cruelty lurking in its full curves, 
and the big teeth which gleamed white and serrated when he 
laughed. Indeed, the whole aspect of the man filled me with 
an instinctive disgust. 

They were dressed in that mixture of ultra- fashion able 
and horsey styles peculiar to the " Corinthian," or "Buck" 
of the period, and there was in their air an overbearing yet 
lazy insolence towards all and sundry that greatly an- 
noyed me. 

" Fifteen thousand a year, by gad ! " exclaimed the taller 
of the two, giving a supercilious sniff to the brandy he had 
just poured out. 

" Yes, ha ! ha ! — and a damnably pretty filly into the 
bargain ! " 

" You always were so infernally lucky ! " retorted the 
first. 

" Call it rather the reward of virtue," answered his com- 
panion with a laugh that showed his big, white teeth. 

" And what of Beverley — poor dey-vil? " inquired the 
first. 

" Beverley ! " repeated the other ; " had he possessed any 
spirit he would have blown his brains out, like a gentleman ; 
as it was, he preferred merely to disappear," and herewith 
the speaker shrugged his shoulders, and drank off his glass 
with infinite relish and gusto. 

" And a — pretty filly, you say ? " 

" Oh, I believe you ! Country bred, but devilish well- 
blooded — trust Beverley for that." 



At "The Chequers" Inn 59 

" Egad, yes — Beverley had a true eye for beauty or 
breed, poor dey-vil ! " This expression of pity seemed to 
afford each of them much subtle enjoyment. " Harking 
back to this — filly?" said the big man, checking his merri- 
ment, " how if she jibs, and cuts up rough, kicks over the 
traces — deyvilish awkward, eh? " 

His companion raised his foot and rested it carelessly, 
upon the settle near by, and upon the heel of his slim rid- 
ing-boot I saw a particularly cruel-looking, long-necked 
spur. 

" My dear Mostyn," said he, his nostrils working, " for 
such an emergency there is nothing like a pair of good 
sharp ' persuaders,' " here he tapped the spur lightly with 
the slender gold-mounted cane he carried ; " and I rather 
fancy I know j ust how and when to use 'em, Mostyn." And 
once again I saw the gleam of his big, white teeth. 

All this I heard as they lolled within a yard of me, mani- 
festing a lofty and contemptuous disregard for all save 
themselves, waited upon most deferentially by the smiling 
fat fellow, and stared at by the aged man with as much ad- 
miring awe as if they had each been nothing less than a lord 
mayor of London at the very least. But now they leaned 
their heads together and spoke in lowered tones, but some- 
thing in the leering eyes of the one, and the smiling lips of 
the other, told me that it was not of horses that they spoke. 

". . . Bring her to reason, by gad ! " said the slighter 
of the two, setting down his empty glass with a bang, " oh, 
trust me to know their pretty, skittish ways, trust me to 
manage 'em ; I 've never failed yet, by gad ! " 

" Curse me, that 's true enough ! " said the other, and 
here they sank their voices again. 

My ale being finished, I took up my staff, a heavy, 
knotted affair, and turned to go. Now, as I did so, my 
foot, by accident, came in contact with the gold-mounted 
cane I have mentioned, and sent it clattering to the floor. 
I was on the point of stooping for it, when a rough hand 
gripped my shoulder from behind, twisting me savagely 
about, and I thus found myself staring upon two rows of 
sharp, white teeth. 



70 The Broad Highway 

" Pick it up ! " said he, motioning imperiously to the 
cane on the floor between us. 

" Heaven forbid, sir," said I ; " ' is thy servant a dog 
that he should do this thing?' " 

" I told you to pick it up," he repeated, thrusting his 
head towards me ; " are you going to do so, or must I 
make you? " and his nostrils worked more than ever. 

For answer I raised my foot and sent the cane spinning 
across the room. Somebody laughed, and next moment 
my hat was knocked from my head. Before he could strike 
again, however, I raised my staff, but suddenly remem- 
bering its formidable weight, I altered the direction of the 
blow, and thrust it strongly into the very middle of his 
gayly flowered waistcoat. So strongly did I thrust, indeed, 
that he would have fallen but for the timely assistance of 
his companion. 

" Come, come," said I, holding him off on the end of my 
staff, " be calm now, and let us reason together like logical 
beings. I knocked down your cane by accident, and you, 
my hat by intent; very well then, be so good as to return 
me my property, from the corner yonder, and we will call 
' quits.' " 

" No, by gad ! " gasped my antagonist, bending almost 
double, " wait — only wait until I get — my wind — I '11 
choke — the infernal life out of you — only wait, by gad ! " 

" Willingly," said I, " but whatever else you do, you 
will certainly reach me my hat, otherwise, just so soon as 
you find yourself sufficiently recovered, I shall endeavor to 
throw you after it." Saying which, I laid aside my staff, 
and buttoned up my coat. 

" Why," he began, " you infernally low, dusty, ditch- 
trotting blackguard " But his companion, who had 

been regarding me very closely, twitched him by the sleeve, 
and whispered something in his ear. Whatever it was it 
affected my antagonist strangely, for he grew suddenly 
very red, and then very white, and abruptly turned his 
back upon me. 

" Are you sure, Mostyn ? " said he in an undertone. 



At "The Chequers" Inn 71 

" Certain." 

" Well, I 'd fight him were he the devil himself ! Pistols 
perhaps would be " 

" Don't be a fool, Harry," cried the other, and seizing 
his arm, drew him farther away, and, though they low- 
ered their voices, I caught such fragments as " What of 
George? " " changes since your time," " ruin your chances 
at the start," " dead shot." 

" Sir," said I, " my hat — in the corner yonder." 

Almost to my surprise, the taller of the two crossed the 
room, followed by his friend, to whom he still spoke in low- 
ered tones, stooped, picked up my hat, and, while the other 
stood scowling, approached, and handed it to me with a 
bow. 

" That my friend, Sir Harry Mortimer, lost his temper, 
is regretted both by him and myself," said he, " but is 
readily explained by the fact that he has been a long time 
from London, while I labored under a — a disadvantage, 
sir — until your hat was off." 

Now, as he spoke, his left eyelid flickered twice in rapid 
succession. 

" I beg you won't mention it," said I, putting on my hat ; 
" but, sir, why do you wink at me? " 

" No, no," cried he, laughing and shaking his head, " ha ! 
ha ! — deyvilish good ! By the way, they tell me George 
himself is in these parts — incog, of course " 

" George? " said I, staring. 

" Cursed rich, on my life and soul ! " cried the tall gen- 
tleman, shaking his head and laughing again. " Mum 's 
the word, of course, and I swear a shaven face becomes you 
most deyvilishly ! " 

" Perhaps you will be so obliging as to tell me what you 
mean ? " said I, frowning. 

" Oh, by gad ! " he cried, fairly hugging himself with 
delight. " Oh, the devil ! this is too rich — too infernally 
rich, on my life and soul it is ! " 

Now all at once there recurred to me the memory of Tom 
Cragg, the Pugilist ; of how he too had winked at me, and 



72 The Broad Highway 

of his incomprehensible manner afterwards beneath the gib- 
bet on River Hill. 

" Sir," said I, " do you happen to know a pugilist, Tom 
Cragg by name? " 

" Tom Cragg ! well, I should think so ; who does n't, 
sir?" 

" Because," I went on, " he too seems to labor under the 
delusion that he is acquainted with me, and " 

" Acquainted ! " repeated the tall gentleman, " ac- 
quainted ! Oh, gad ! " and immediately hugged himself in 
another ecstasy. 

" If," said I, " you will have the goodness to tell me for 
whom you evidently mistake me " 

" Mistake you ! " he gasped, throwing himself upon the 
settle and rocking to and fro, " ha ! ha ! — mistake you ! " 

Seeing I did but waste my breath, I turned upon my heel, 
and made for the door. As I went, my eye, by chance, 
lighted upon a cheese that stood at the fat landlord's elbow, 
and upon which he cast amorous glances from time to time. 

" That seems a fine cheese ! " said I. 

" It is, sir, if I might make so bold, a noble cheese ! " he 
rejoined, and laid his hand upon it with a touch that was 
a caress. 

" Then I will take three pennyworth of your noble 
cheese," said I. 

" Cheese ! " faintly echoed the gentleman upon the settle, 
" three pennyworth. Oh, I shall die, positively I shall 
burst!" 

" Also a loaf," said I. And when the landlord had cut 
the cheese with great nicety — a generous portion — and 
had wrapped it into a parcel, I put it, together with the 
loaf, into my knapsack, and giving him " Good day ! " 
strode to the door. As I reached it, the tall gentleman rose 
from the settle, and bowed. 

" Referring to George, sir " 

" George ! " said I shortly ; " to the devil with George ! " 

Now I could not help being struck by the effect of my 
words, for Sir Harry let fall his cane, and stared open- 



At " The Chequers" Inn 73 

mouthed, while his companion regarded me with an ex- 
pression between a frown and wide-eyed dismay. 

" Now I wonder," said I to myself as I descended the 
steps, " I wonder who George can be? " 

Before the inn there stood a yellow-wheeled stanhope 
with a horse which, from his manner of trembling all over 
for no conceivable reason, and manifest desire to stand upon 
his hind legs, I conceived to be a thorough-bred; and, 
hanging grimly to the bridle, now in the air, now on terra 
firma, alternately coaxing and cursing, was my friend the 
Semiquavering Ostler. He caught sight of me just as a 
particularly vicious jerk swung him off his legs. 

" Damn your liver ! " he cried to the horse, and then, to 
me: "If you '11 jest call Joe to 'old this 'ere black varmin 
for me, I '11 — fill yer — eye up." 

" Thanks," said I, " but I much prefer to keep it as it 
is ; really there is no need to trouble Joe, and as for you, I 
wish you good morning ! " 

And when I had gone a little way, chancing to glance 
back over my shoulder, I saw that the Outside Passenger 
stood upon the inn steps, and was staring after me. 



CHAPTER XII 

THE ONE-LEGGED SOLDIER 

Following the high road, I came, in a little, to where the 
ways divided, the one leading straight before me, the other 
turning sharp to the left, where (as I remember) is a very 
steep hill. 

And at the parting of the ways was a finger-post with 
the words : " To London. To Tonbridge Wells. To 
Pembry." Now as I stood beneath the finger-post, de- 
bating which road I should take, I was aware of the sound 
of wheels, and, glancing about, saw a carrier's cart ap- 
proaching. The driver was a fine, tall, ruddy-faced fellow, 
very spruce as to his person, who held himself with shoul- 
ders squared and bolt upright, and who shouted a cheery 
greeting to me. 

" If so be you are for Pembry, or thereabouts, sir," 
said he, bringing his horses to a standstill, " why, jump up, 
sir — that is, if you be so minded." 

" My course lies anywhere," said I. 

" Then — if you be so minded ? " 

" I am so minded," said I. 

" Then, sir, jump up," said he. 

" Thanks ! " said I. 

So I climbed upon the seat beside him, and then I saw 
that he had a wooden leg, and straightway understood his 
smart bearing, and general neat appearance. 

" You have been a soldier? " said I. 

" And my name 's Tom, and I could tell you a sight 
about them Spanishers, and Frenchies — that is, if — you 
be so minded £ " 



The One-Legged Soldier 75 

" I am so minded ; fire away, Tom." 

" Well," he began, fixing his eyes on the " wheeler's " 
ears, " they Frenchies ain't so bad as is thought, though 
they do eat frogs, but what I say is — if they be so minded, 
why frogs let it be ! " 

" To be sure ! " said I. 

" And after all they 're well worth fighting, and that 's 
more than you can say for a many ! " 

" True," said I, " one generally has a certain respect for 
the man one fights." 

" Then there 's Old Bony." 

" Have you ever seen him? " 

" I have, sir ; I were captured outside the Lines of Torres 
Vedras, and I saw Old Bony eating his breakfast off a 
drum-head wi' one hand and a-writing a dispatch wi' the 
other — a little fat man not so high as my shoulder, look 
you. There 's some as says as Old Bony lives on new-born 
babies, but I know different. Because why, says you? Be- 
cause I 've seen with these 'ere ' peepers,' says I — bread 
it were, and cheese, and garlic, and a uncommon lot at 
that." 

"And where did you lose your leg, Tom? " 

" Vittoria — I 'appened to be carrying my off'cer, En- 
sign Standish his name, barely eighteen year old. Shot 
through the lung he were, and a-trying to tell me to put 
him down and go, the fire being uncommonly 'ot there, 
you '11 understand, sir, and as I say, he were trying to tell 
me to drop him and run for it, and blowing blood-bubbles 
wi 9 every word, when all at once I feels a sort of a shock, 
and there I was on my back and him atop o' me ; and when 
I went to get up — damme ! there was my leg gone below 
the knee, and no pleasant sight, neither." 

"And afterward?" 

" Arterwards," he repeated. " Why, that were the end 
o' my sojerin', ye see; we lay in the same 'ospital 'im an' 
me, side by side, and he swore as I 'd saved his life — which 
I 'ad n't, look you, and likewise swore as he 'd never forget 
it. And he never 'as either, for here am I wi' my own horse 



7 6 The Broad Highway 

and cart, Tom Price by name, carrier by trade, an' very 
much at your service, sir, I 'm sure." 

Thus we climbed the hill of Pembry, by tree and hedge, 
and lonely cottage, by rolling meadow, and twilit wood, 
Tom the Soldier and I. 

Much he told me of lonely night watches, of death sudden 
and sharp, of long, weary marches, and stricken fields, of 
the bloody doings of the Spanish Guerrillas, of Mina, and 
his deviltries. And in my ears was the roar of guns, and 
before my eyes the gleam and twinkle of bayonets. By 
the side of Tom the Soldier I waited the thunderous charge 
of French Dragoons, saw their stern, set faces, and the 
flash of their brandished steel as they swept down upon 
our devoted square, swept down to break in red confusion 
before our bristling bayonets ; and the air was full of the 
screams of smitten horses, and the deep-throated shouts and 
groans of men. By the side of Tom the Soldier I stormed 
through many a reeking breach, swept by fire, and slip- 
pery with blood ; and all for love of it, the munificent sum 
of eightpence per day, and that which we call " Glory." 
Bravo, Tom the Soldier! 

And presently I became aware that he had stopped his 
horses, and was regarding me smilingly. 

" Tom," said I, " you are a wonderful talker ! " 

" And you, sir," said he, " are a better listener, and, 
look you, a good listener is mighty hard to come by. How- 
somever, here 's the end o' my journey, more 's the pity, 
but if you " 

" Tom," said I suddenly, " you never heard of Tom 
Cragg, did you? " 

" Can't say as I have," he answered, stroking his chin 
thoughtfully, " though there was a Dick Snagget in the 
6 Thirty-Ninth,' I remember " 

" And you don't know who ' George ' is, of course? " I 
continued musingly. 

" Why, I 've knowed a many Georges in my time," said 
he, " and then there 's George, Prince o' Wales, the Prince 
Regent, as they calls him now." 



The One-Legged Soldier 77 

" George, Prince of Wales ! " said I, staring ; " by- 
heavens, Tom, I believe you 've hit it ! " And, with the 
word, I sprang down from the cart. 

" My cottage is near by, sir, and I should be proud for 
you to eat supper wi' me — that is — if you be so 
minded? " 

" Many thanks," said I, " but I am not so minded, and 
so, good-by, Tom ! " And, with the words, I wrung the 
soldier's honest hand in mine, and went upon my way. 

" George, Prince of Wales ! " said I to myself ; " could 
this be the s George ' they had meant ? If so, then who and 
what had they supposed me? " Hereupon, as I walked, I 
fell into a profound meditation, in which I presently remem- 
bered how that Tom Cragg had also mentioned the Prince, 
giving me to understand that his Highness had actually 
ordered him (Tom Cragg) to leave London; and why? 
" Arter that theer kidnappin', an' me 'avin' laid out Sir 
Jarsper Trent — accordin' to yer order." 

Sir Jasper Trent ! I stopped stock still in the road. Sir 
Jasper Trent! At last I remembered the name that had 
eluded me so persistently. Remembered it? Nay, indeed, 
it was rather as if the Pugilist had whispered the words 
into my ear, and I glanced round almost expecting to see 
him. 

" Arter that theer kidnappin', an' me 'avin' laid out Sir 
Jarsper Trent — accordin' to yer orders ! " 

According to my orders, or rather, the orders of the man 
for whom he (in common with the two gentlemen at " The 
Chequers ") had mistaken me. But who was that man? Of 
him I knew two facts — namely, that he was much like me 
in person, and had formerly worn, or possibly still wore, 
whiskers. And beyond these two facts I could get no 
farther, revolve the matter how I might, so I presently 
shrugged my shoulders, and banishing it from my thoughts 
for the time being, set forward at a good pace. 



CHAPTER Xin 

IN WHICH I FIND AN ANSWER TO MY RIDDLE 

The sun was already westering when I came to a pump 
beside the way; and seizing the handle I worked it vigor- 
ously, then, placing my hollowed hands beneath the gush^ 
ing spout, drank and pumped, alternately, until I had 
quenched my thirst. I now found myself prodigiously 
hungry, and remembering the bread and cheese in my knap- 
sack, looked about for an inviting spot in which to eat. 

On one side of the road was a thick hedge, and, beneath 
this hedge, a deep, dry, grassy ditch ; and here, after first 
slipping off my knapsack, I sat down, took out the loaf and 
the cheese, and opening my clasp-knife, prepared to fall to. 

At this moment I was interrupted in a rather singular 
fashion, for hearing a rustling close by, I looked up, and 
into a face that was protruded through a gap in the hedge 
above me. 

It needed but a glance at the battered hat with its j aunty 
brim, and great silver buckle, and the haggard, devil-may- 
care face below, to recognize the individual whom I had 
seen thrown out of the hedge tavern the morning before. 

It was a very thin face, as I have said, pale and hollow- 
eyed and framed in black curly hair, whose very blackness 
did but accentuate the extreme pallor of the skin, which 
was tight, and drawn above the cheek bones and angle of 
the jaw. Yet, as I looked at this face, worn and cadaverous 
though it was, in the glance of the hollow eyes, in the line 
of the clean-cut mouth I saw that mysterious something 
which marks a man, what we call for want of a better word, 
a gentleman. 



I Find an Answer to my Riddle 79 

" Good evening ! " said he, and lifted the battered hat. 

" Good evening ! " I returned. 

" Pardon me," said he, " but I was saluting the bread 
and cheese." 

"Indeed!" said I. 

" Indeed ! " he rejoined, " it is the first edible I have been 
on speaking terms with, so to speak, for rather more than 
three days, sir." 

" You are probably hungry? " said I. 

" It would be foolish to deny it, sir." 

" Then, if you care to eat with me in the ditch here, you 
are heartily welcome," said I. 

" With all the pleasure in life ! " said he, vaulting very 
nimbly through the hedge; "you shall not ask me twice 

or the very deuce is in it ! Believe me, I " Here he 

stopped, very suddenly, and stood looking at me. 

" Ah ! " said he gently, and with a rising inflection, let- 
ting the ejaculation escape in a long-drawn breath. 

" Well? " I inquired. Now as I looked up at him, the 
whole aspect of the man, from the toes of his broken boots 
to the crown of the battered hat, seemed to undergo a 
change, as though a sudden, fierce anger had leapt into 
life, and been controlled, but by a strong effort. 

" On my life and soul, now ! " said he, falling back a step, 
and eyeing me with a vaguely unpleasant smile, " this is a 
most unexpected — a most unlooked for pleasure ; it is — 
I vow it is." 

" You flatter me," said I. 

" No, sir, no ; to meet you again — some day — some- 
where — alone — quite alone, sir, is a pleasure I have fre- 
quently dwelt upon, but never hoped to realize. As it is, 
sir, having, in my present condition, no chance of procuring 
better weapons than my fists, allow me to suggest that they 
are, none th^ less, entirely at your service ; do me the in- 
finite kindness to stand up." 

" Sir," I answered, cutting a slice from the loaf, "you are 
the third person within the last forty-eight hours who has 
mistaken me for another ; it really gets quite wearisome." 



80 The Broad Highway 

" Mistaken you," he broke in, and his smile grew suddenly 
bitter, " do you think it possible that I could ever mis- 
take you? " 

" I am sure of it ! " said I. " Furthermore, pray do not 
disparage your fists, sir. A bout at fisticuffs never did a 
man any harm that I ever heard; a man's fists are good, 
honest weapons supplied by a beneficent Providence — far 
better than your unnatural swords and murderous hair- 
triggers ; at least, so I think, being, I trust, something of 
a philosopher. Still, in this instance, never having seen 
your face, or heard your voice until yesterday, I shall con- 
tinue to sit here, and eat my bread and cheese, and if you 
are wise you will hasten to follow my so excellent example 
while there is any left, for, I warn you, I am mightily 
sharp set." 

" Come, come," said he, advancing upon me threaten- 
ingly, " enough of this foolery ! " 

" By all means," said I, " sit down, like a sensible fellow, 
and tell me for whom you mistake me." 

" Sir, with all the pleasure in life ! " said he, clenching 
his fists, and I saw his nostrils dilate suddenly. " I take 
you for the greatest rogue, the most gentlemanly rascal 
but one, in all England ! " 

" Yes," said I, " and my name? " 

" Sir Maurice Vibart ! " 

" Sir Maurice Vibart ? " I sprang to my feet, staring at 
him in amazement. " Sir Maurice Vibart is my cousin," 
said I. 

And so we stood, for a long minute, immobile and silent, 
eyeing each other above the bread and cheese. 



CHAPTER XIV 

FURTHER CONCERNING THE GENTLEMAN IN THE 
BATTERED HAT 

" Sir," said my companion at last, lifting the battered 
hat, M I tender you my apology, and I shall be delighted 
to eat with you in the ditch, if you are in the same mind 
about it? " 

" Then you believe me? " 

" Indubitably, sir," he answered with a faint smile ; " had 
you indeed been Sir Maurice, either he or I, and most 
probably I, would be lying flat in the road, by this." 

So, without more ado, we sat down in the ditch together, 
side by side, and began to eat. And now I noticed that 
when he thought my eye was upon him, my companion ate 
with a due deliberation and nicety, and when he thought it 
was off, with a voracity that was painful to witness. And 
after we had eaten a while in silence, he turned to me with 
a sigh. 

" This is very excellent cheese ! " said he. 

" The man from whom I bought it," said I, " called it a 
noble cheese, I remember." 

" I never tasted one of a finer flavor ! " said my companion. 

" Hunger is a fine sauce," said I, " and you are probably 
hungry? " 

" Hungry ! " he repeated, bolting a mouthful and knock- 
ing his hat over his eyes with a slap on its dusty crown. 
" Egad, Mr. Vibart ! so would you be — so would any man 
be who has lived on anything he could beg, borrow, or 
steal, with an occasional meal of turnips — in the digging 



82 The Broad Highway 

©f which I am become astonishingly expert — and unripe 
blackberries, which latter I have proved to be a very trying 
diet in many ways — hungry, oh, damme ! " 

And after a while, when there nothing remained of loaf 
©r cheese save a few scattered crumbs, my companion 
leaned back, and gave another sigh. 

" Sir," said he, with an airy wave of the hand, " in me 
you behold a highly promising young gentleman ruined by 
a most implacable enemy — himself, sir. In the first place 
you must know my name is Beverley — " 

" Beverley? " I repeated. 

" Beverley," he nodded, " Peregrine Beverley, very much 
at your service — late of Beverley Place, Surrey, now of 
Nowhere-in-Particular." 

" Beverley," said I again, " I have heard that name 
before." 

" It is highly probable, Mr. Vibart ; a fool of that name 

— fortunate or unfortunate as you choose to classify him 

— lost houses, land, and money in a single night's play. I 
am that fool, sir, though you have doubtless heard par- 
ticulars ere now? " 

" Not a word ! " said I. Mr. Beverley glanced at me with 
a faint mingling of pity and surprise. " My life," I 
explained, " has been altogether a studious one, with the 
not altogether unnatural result that I also am bound for 
Nowhere-in-Particular with just eight shillings and six- 
pence in my pocket." 

" And mine, as I tell you," said he, " has been an alto- 
gether riotous one. Thus each of us, though by widely 
separate roads — you by the narrow and difficult path of 
Virtue, and I by the broad and easy road of Folly — have 
managed to find our way into this Howling Destitution, 
which we will call Nowhere-in-Particular. Then how does 
your path of Virtue better my road of Evil? " 

" The point to be considered," said I, " is not so much 
what we now are, but rather, what we have done, and may 
ultimately be, and do." 

" Well ? " said he, turning to look at me. 



The Gentleman in the Battered Hat 83 

" For my own achievements, hitherto," I continued, " I 
have won the High Jump, and Throwing the Hammer, also 
translated the works of Quintilian, with the Satyricon of 
Petronius Arbiter, and the Life, Lives, and Memoirs of the 
Seigneur de Brantome, which last, as you are probably 
aware, has never before been done into the English." 

" Ha ! " exclaimed Mr. Beverley, sitting up suddenly, 
with his ill-used hat very much over one eye, " there we 
have it ! Who ever heard of Old Quin — What 's-his-name, 
or cared, except, perhaps, a few bald-headed bookworms 
and withered litterateurs? While you were dreaming of 
life, and reading the lives of other fellows, I was living it. 
In my career, episodically brief though it was, I have met 
and talked with all the wits, and celebrated men, have 
drunk good wine, and worshipped beautiful women, Mr. 
Vibart." 

" And what has it all taught you ? " said I. 

" That there are an infernal number of rogues and ras- 
cals in the world, for one thing — and that is worth 
knowing." 

" Yes," said I. 

" That, though money can buy anything, from the love 
of a woman to the death of an enemy, it can only be spent 
once — and that is worth knowing also." 

" Yes," said I. 

" And that I am a most preposterous ass ! — and that 
last, look you, is more valuable than all the others. Solo- 
mon, I think, says something about a wise man being truly 
wise who knoweth himself a fool, doesn't he?" 

" Something of the sort." 

" Then," said he, flinging his hat down upon the grass 
beside him, " what argument can you advance in favor of 
your 6 Narrow and Thorny' ? " 

" The sum of eight shillings and sixpence, a loaf of 
bread, and a slice of noble cheese, now no more," said I. 

" Egad ! " said he, looking at me from the corners of 
his blue eyes, " the argument is unanswerable, more espe- 
cially the cheese part, against which I 'd say nothing, even 



84 The Broad Highway 

if I could. " Having remarked which, he lay flat on his 
back again, staring up at the leaves, and the calm serenity 
of the sky beyond, while I filled my negro-head pipe from 
my paper of tobacco, and forthwith began to smoke. 

And, presently, as I sat alternately watching the blue 
wreaths of my pipe and the bedraggled figure extended 
beside me, he suddenly rolled over on his arm, and so lay, 
watching me. 

" On my soul ! " he exclaimed at length, " it is positively 
marvellous." 

"What is?" I inquired. 

" The resemblance between you and your famous cousin." 

" It would appear so," said I, shrugging my shoulders, 
" though, personally, I was unaware of this fact up till 
now." 

" Do I understand that you have never seen Sir Maurice 
Vibart^ never seen ' Buck ' Vibart ? " 

" Never ! " said I. 

" Too much occupied in keeping to the Narrow and 
Thorny, I suppose? Your cousin's is the Broad and 
Flowery, with a vengeance." 

" So I understand," said I. 

" Nevertheless, the resemblance between you, both in face 
and figure, is positively astounding! With the sole ex- 
ception that he wears hair upon his face, and is of a ruddy 
complexion, while you are pale, and smooth-cheeked as — 
as a boy " 

" Or yourself ! " said I. 

" Ah — exactly ! " he answered, and passed his fingers 
across his chin tentatively, and fell again to staring lazily 
up into the sky. " Do you happen to know anything about 
that most remarkable species of the ' genus homo ' calling 
themselves ' Bucks,' or * Corinthians' ? " he inquired, after 
a while. 

" Very little," said I, " and that, only by hearsay." 

" Well, up to six months ago, I was one of them, Mr. 
Vibart, until Fortune, and I think now, wisely, decreed it 
otherwise." And herewith, lying upon his back, looking 



The Gentleman in the Battered Hat 85 

up through the quivering green of leaves, he told mad 
tales of a reckless Prince, of the placid Brummel, of the 
" Dashing " Vibart, the brilliant Sheridan, of Fox, and 
Grattan, and many others, whose names are now a byword 
one way or the other. He recounted a story of wild prodi- 
gality, of drunken midnight orgies, of days and nights 
over the cards, of wine, women, and horses. But, lastly 
and very reverently, he spoke of a woman, of her love, and 
faith, and deathless trust. " Of course," he ended, " I 
might have starved very comfortably, and much quicker, 
in London, but when my time comes, I prefer to do my 
dying beneath some green hedge, or in the shelter of some 
friendly rick, with the cool, clean wind upon my face. 
Besides She loved the country." 

" Then there are some women who can't be bought ? " 
said I, looking at his glistening eyes. 

" Mr. Vibart," said he, " so far as I know, there are two 
— the Lady Helen Dunstan and the ' Glorious ' Sefton." 

" The Lady Sophia Sef ton of Cambourne ? " said I. 

" And — the Lady Helen Dunstan," he repeated. 

" Do you know the Lady Sophia Sef ton? " 

" I have had the honor of dancing with her frequently," 
he answered. 

" And is she so beautiful as they say? " 

" She is the handsomest woman in London, one of your 
black-browed, deep-eyed goddesses, tall, and gracious, and 
most nobly shaped ; though, sir, for my own part, I prefer 
less fire and iee — a more gentle beauty." 

" As, for instance, the Lady Helen Dunstan? " said I. 

" Exactly ! " nodded Mr. Beverley. 

" Referring to the Lady Sophia Sefton," I pursued, 
" she is a reigning toast, I believe? " 

" Gad, yes ! her worshippers are legion, and chief among 
them his Royal Highness, and your cousin, Sir Maurice, 
who has actually had the temerity to enter the field as the 
Prince's avowed rival ; no one but * Buck ' Vibart could 
be so madly rash ! " 

" A most fortunate lady ! " said I. 



86 The Broad Highway 

" Mr. Vibart ! " exclaimed my companion, cocking his 
battered hat and regarding me with a smouldering eye, 
"Mr. Vibart, I object to your tone; the noble Sef ton's 
virtue is proud and high, and above even the breath of 
suspicion." 

" And yet my cousin would seem to be no laggard in love, 
and as to the Prince — his glance is contamination to a 
woman." 

" Sir," returned Mr. Beverley very earnestly, " disabuse 
your mind of all unworthy suspicions, I beg; your cousin 
she laughs to scorn, and his Royal Highness she had re- 
buffed as few women have, hitherto, dared do." 

" It would almost seem," said I, after a pause, " that, 
from what I have inadvertently learned, my cousin has some 
'dirty work afoot, though exactly what, I cannot imagine." 

" My dear Mr. Vibart, your excellent cousin is forever 
up to something or other, and has escaped the well-merited 
consequences, more than once, owing to his friendship with, 
and the favor of his friend " 

" George ? " said I. 

" Exactly ! " said my companion, raising himself on his 
elbow, and nodding : " George." 

" Have you ever heard mention of Tom Cragg, the 
Pugilist ? " I inquired, blowing a cloud of smoke into the 
warm air. 

" I won ten thousand guineas when he knocked out Ted 
Jarraway of Swansea," yawned my companion ; " a good 
fighter, but a rogue — like all the rest of 'em, and a crea- 
ture of your excellent cousin's." 

" I guessed as much," I nodded, and forthwith plunged 
into an account of my meeting with the " craggy one," the 
which seemed to amuse Mr. Beverley mightily, more espe- 
cially when I related Cragg's mysterious disappearance. 

" Oh, gad ! " cried Beverley, wiping his eyes on the tat- 
tered lapel of his coat, " the resemblance served you luckily 
there ; your cousin gave him the thrashing of his life, and 
poor Tom evidently thought he was in for another. That 
was the last you saw of him, I '11 be bound." 



The Gentleman in the Battered Hat 87 

" No, I met him afterwards beneath the gibbet on River 
Hill, where, among other incomprehensible things, he gave 
me to understand that he recognized me despite my dis- 
guise, assumed, as he supposed, on account of his having 
kidnapped some one or other, and ' laid out ' a certain Sir 
Jasper Trent in Wych Street according to my orders, or 
rather, it would seem, my cousin's orders, the author of 
which outrage Sir Jasper had evidently found out " 

" The devil ! " exclaimed Mr. Beverley, and sat up with 
a jerk. 

" And furthermore," I went on, " he informed me that 
the Prince himself had given him the word to leave London 
until the affair had blown over." 

Now while I spoke, Mr. Beverley had been regarding me 
with a very strange expression, his cheeks had gone even 
paler than before, his eyes seemed to stare through, and 
beyond me, and his hands were tight-clenched at his sides. 

" Mr. Beverley," said I, " what ails you? " 

For a moment he did not speak, then answered, with the 
same strange look: 

" Sir Jasper Trent — is my cousin, sir ! " 

My negro-head pipe slipped suddenly, and fell into the 
grass, happily without injury. 

"Indeed!" said I. 

" Can you not see what this means, sir? " he went on 
hurriedly. " Jasper will fight." 

" Indeed," said I again, " I fear so." 

" Jasper was always a bit of a fish, and with no particu- 
lar affection for his graceless kinsman, but I am his only 
relative ; and — and he hardly knows one end of a pistol 
from the other, while your cousin is a dead shot." 

" My cousin ! " I exclaimed ; " then it was he — to be 
sure I saw only his back." 

" Sir Jasper is unmarried — has no relations but my- 
self," my companion repeated, with the same fixed intent- 
ness of look ; " can you appreciate, I wonder, what this 
would mean to me ? " 

" Rank, and fortune, and London," said I. 



8 8 The Broad Highway 

" No, no ! " He sprang to his feet, and threw wide his 
ragged arms with a swift, passionate gesture. " It means 
Life — and Helen. My God ! " he went on, speaking al- 
most in a whisper, " I never knew how much I wanted her 
— how much I had wilfully tossed aside — till now ! I 
never realized the full misery of it all — till now ! I could 
have starved very well in time, and managed it as quietly 
as most other ruined fools. But now — to see the chance 
of beginning again, of coming back to self-respect and — 
Helen, my God ! " And, of a sudden, he cast himself upon 
his face, and so lay, tearing up the grass by handfuls. 
Then, almost as suddenly, he was upon his feet again, and 
had caught up his hat. " Sir," said he somewhat shame- 
facedly, smoothing its ruffled nap with fingers that still 
quivered, " pray forgive that little ebullition of feeling ; 
it is over — quite over, but your tidings affected me, and I 
am not quite myself at times ; as I have already said, tur- 
nips and unripe blackberries are not altogether desirable 
as a diet." 

" Indeed," said I, " you seemed strangely perturbed." 

" Mr. Vibart," said he, staring very hard at the battered 
hat, and turning it round and round, " Mr. Vibart, the 
devil is surprisingly strong in some of us." 

" True," said I. 

" My cousin, Sir Jasper, is a bookish fellow, and, as I 
have said, a fool where anything else is in question ; if this 
meeting is allowed to take place, I feel that he will most 
certainly be killed, and his death would mean a new life — 
more than life to me." 

" Yes," said I. 

" And for a moment, Mr. Vibart, I was tempted to sit 
down in the ditch again, and let things take their course. 
The devil, I repeat, is remarkably strong in some of us." 

" Then what is your present intention? " 

" I am going to London to find Sir Maurice Vibart — to 
stop this duel." 

" Impossible ! " said I. 

" But you see, sir, it so happens that I am possessed of 



The Gentleman in the Battered Hat 89 

certain intelligence which might make Sir Maurice's exist- 
ence in England positively untenable." 

" Nevertheless," said I, " it is impossible." 

" That remains to be seen, Mr. Vibart," said he, and 
speaking, turned upon his heel. 

" One moment," said I, " was not your cousin, Sir 
Jasper, of the middle height, slim-built and fair-haired,, 
with a habit of plucking at his lips when at all nervous, 
or excited? " 

" Exactly ; you know him, sir ? " 

" No," I answered, " but I have seen him, very lately, 
and I say again to stop this duel is an impossibility." 

" Do you mean " he began, and paused. Now, as 

his eyes met mine, the battered hat escaped his fingers, and 

lay all unheeded. " Do you mean " he began again,. 

and again stopped. 

" Yes," said I, " I mean that you are too late. Sir 
Jasper was killed at a place called Deepdene Wood, no 
longer since than to-day at half -past seven in the morning. 
It was raining at the time, I remember, but the day grew 
glorious later." 

For a long moment Mr. Beverley stood silent with bent 
head, then, apparently becoming aware of the hat at his 
feet, he sent it flying with a sudden kick, and watched it 
describe a wide parabola ere it disappeared into the ditch, 
some yards away. Which done, he walked after it, and 
returned, brushing it very carefully with his ragged cuff. 

"And — you are sure — quite sure, Mr. Vibart?" he 
inquired, smoothing the broken brim with the greatest 
solicitude. 

" I stood behind a hedge, and watched it done," said I. 

" Then — my God ! — I am Sir Peregrine Beverley ! I 
am Sir Peregrine Beverley of Burnham Hall, very much at 
your service. Jasper — dead ! A knight banneret of Kent, 
and Justice of the Peace ! How utterly preposterous it all 
sounds ! But to-day I begin life anew, ah, yes, a new life, 
a new life! To-day all things are possible again! The 
fool has learned wisdom, and, I hope, become a man. But 



90 The Broad Highway 

come," said he in a more natural tone, " let us get back to 
our ditch, and, while you tell me the particulars, if you 
don't object I should much like to try a whiff at that pipe 
of yours." 

So, while I recounted the affair as briefly as I might, 
he sat puffing at my pipe, and staring away into the dis- 
tance. But gradually his head sank lower and lower, until 
his face was quite hidden from me, and for a long moment 
after I had ended my narration, there was silence. 

" Poor Jasper ! " said he at last, without raising his 
head, " poor old Jasper ! " 

" I congratulate you, Sir Peregrine," said I. 

" And I used to pummel him so, when we were boys to- 
gether at Eton — poor old Jasper ! " And, presently, he 
handed me my pipe, and rose. " Mr. Vibart," said he, " it 
would seem that by no effort, or virtue of my own, I am 
to win free of this howling desolation of Nowhere-in-Par- 
ticular, after all ; believe me, I would gladly take you with 
me. Had I not met with you it is — rather more than 
probable — that I — should never have seen another dawn ; 
so if — if ever I can be of — use to you, pray honor me 
so far; you can always hear of me at Burnham Hall, 
Pembry. Good-by, Mr. Vibart, I am going to her — in 
all my rags — for I am a man again." 

So I bade him good-by, and, sitting in the ditch, watched 
him stride away to his new life. Presently, reaching the 
brow of the hill (there are hills everywhere in the South 
country), I saw him turn to flourish the battered hat ere 
he disappeared from my sight. 



CHAPTER XV 



IN WHICH I MEET WITH A PEDLER BY THE NAME OF 

U 



" Yotr won't be wantin' ever a broom, now? " 

I sat up, sleepily, and rubbed my eyes. The sun was 
gone, and the blue sky had changed to a deep purple, set 
here and there with a quivering star. Yet the light was 
still strong enough to enable me to distinguish the speaker 
— a short, thick-set man. Upon his shoulder he carried 
a bundle of brooms, a pack was slung to his back, while 
round his neck there dangled a heterogeneous collection 
of articles — ribbons, laces, tawdry neck chains, and the 
like; indeed, so smothered was he in his wares that, as he 
stood there, he had more the aspect of some disordered 
fancy than of a human being. 

" You won't be wantin' ever a broom, now? " he repeated, 
in a somewhat melancholy tone. 

" No," said I. 

" Nor yet a mop ? " 

" Nor that either," said I. 

" A belt, now," he suggested mournfully, " a fine leather 
belt wi' a steel buckle made in Brummagem as ever was, and 
all for a shillin' ; what d' ye say to a fine belt? " 

" That I have no need of one, thank you." 

" Ah, well ! " said the man, spitting dejectedly at a patch 
of shadow, " I thought as much ; you are n't got the look 
of a buyer." 

"Then why ask me? " 

" Hinstinct ! " said he, " it 's jest hinstinct — it comes 
as nat'ral to me as eatin', or walkin' these 'ere roads." 



92 The Broad Highway 

" Have you come far to-day? " 

" Twenty mile, maybe," he answered, setting down his 
bundle of brooms. 

"Are you tired? " 

" 'Course I 'm tired." 

" Then why not sit down and rest ? " 

" Because I 'd 'ave to get up again, would n't I? 7> 

" Are you hungry ? " 

" 'Ungry are n't the word for it." 

" And how is trade? " 

" Could n't be worse ! " 

" I perceive you are a pessimist," said I. 

" No," said he, " I 'm a pedler — baptism'l name Richard, 
commonly known as ' Gabbin' Dick.' " 

" At least yours is a fine healthy trade," said I. 

"'Ow so?" 

" A life of constant exercise, and fresh air ; to-day for 
instance " 

" 'Ot as a hoven ! " said he. 

" Yet there was a good, cool wind," said I. 

" Ah ! an' with dust enough to choke a man ! And then 
there 's the loneliness o' these 'ere roads." 

" Loneliness ? " said I. 

" That 's the word ; sometimes it gets so bad as I 'm 
minded to do away wi' myself " 

" Strange ! " I began. 

" Not a bit," said he ; " when you 've been a-walkin' an' 
a-walkin' all day past 'edge and 'edge, and tree and tree, 
it 's bad enough, but it 's worse when the sun 's gone out, 
an' you foller the glimmer o' the road on and on, past 
'edges as ain't 'edges, and trees as ain't trees, but things 
as touch you as you pass, and reach out arter you in the 
dark, behind. Theer 's one on 'em, back theer on the Cran- 
brook road, looks like an oak-tree in the daytime — ah, 
an' a big 'un — it 's nearly 'ad me three times a'ready — 
once by the leg, once by the arm, and once by the neck. I 
don't pass it arter dark no more, but it '11 'ave me yet — 
mark my words — it '11 'ave me one o' these fine nights ; 



I Meet with a Pedler 93 

and they '11 find me a-danglin' in the gray o' the 
dawn ! " 

" Do you mean that you are afraid ? " I inquired. 

" No, not af eared exactly ; it 's jest the loneliness — 
the lonely quietness. Why, Lord ! you are n't got no no- 
tion o' the tricks the trees and 'edges gets up to a' nights 

— nobody 'as but us as tramps the roads. Bill Nye 
knowed, same as I know, but Bill Nye 's dead ; cut 'is 
throat, 'e did, wi' one o' 'is own razors — under a 'edge." 

" And what for? " I inquired, as the Pedler paused to 
spit lugubriously into the road again. 

" Nobody knowed but me. William Nye 'e were a tinker, 
and a rare, merry 'un 'e were — a little man always up to 
'is jinkin' and jokin' and laughin'. ' Dick,' 'e used to say 
(but Richard I were baptized, though they calls me Dick 
for short), ' Dick,' 'e used to say, ' d' ye know that theer 
big oak-tree — - the big, 'oiler oak as stands at the cross- 
roads a mile and a 'alf out o' Cranbrook? A man might 
do for 'is self very nice, and quiet, tucked away inside of it, 
Dick,' says 'e ; s it 's such a nice, quiet place, so snug and 
dark, I wonder as nobody does. I never pass by,' says 'e, 
4 but I takes a peep inside, j est to make sure as theer are n't 
no legs a-danglin', nor nobody 'unched up dead in the 
dark. It 's such a nice, quiet place,' 'e used to say, shakin' 
'is 'ead, and smilin' sad-like, ' I wonder as nobody 's never 
thought of it afore.' Well, one day, sure enough, poor 
Bill Nye disappeared — nobody knowed wheer. Bill, as I 
say, was a merry sort, always ready wi' a j oke, and that 's 
apt to get a man friends, and they searched for 'im 'igh 
and low, but neither 'ide nor 'air o' poor Bill did they find. 
At last, one evenin' I 'appened to pass the big oak — the 
'oiler oak, and mindin' Bill's words, thinks I — 'ere 's to 
see if 't is empty as Bill said. Goin' up to it I got down 
on my 'ands and knees, and, strikin' a light, looked inside ; 
and there, sure enough, was poor Bill Nye hunched up in- 
side of it wi' a razor in 'is 'and, and 'is 'ead nigh cut off 

— and what wi' one thing and another, a very unpleasant 
sight he were." 



94 The Broad Highway 

" And why — why did he do it ? " I asked. 

"Because 'e 'ad to, o' course — it's jest the loneliness. 
They '11 find me some day, danglin' — I never could abide 
blood myself — danglin' to the thing as looks like a oak- 
tree in the daytime." 

" What do you mean ? " said I. 

The Pedler sighed, shook his head, and shouldered his 
brooms. 

"It's jest the loneliness!" said he, and, spitting over 
his shoulder, trudged upon his way. 



CHAPTER XVI 

HOW I HEARD THE STEPS OF ONE WHO DOGGED 
ME IN THE SHADOWS 

And, in a little while, I rose, and buckled on my knapsack. 
The shadows were creeping on apace, but the sky was won- 
derfully clear, while, low down upon the horizon, I saw the 
full-orbed moon, very broad and big. It would be a bril- 
liant night later, and this knowledge rejoiced me not a little. 

Before me stretched a succession of hills — that chain 
of hills which, I believe, is called the Weald, and over which 
the dim road dipped, and wound, with, on either hand, 
a rolling country, dark with wood, and coppice — - full of 
mystery. The wind had quite fallen, but from the hedges 
came sudden rustlings and soft, unaccountable noises. 
Once, something small and dark scuttered across the road 
before me, and once a bird, hidden near by, set up a loud 
complaint, while, from the deeps of a neighboring wood, 
came the mournful note of a night-jar. 

And, as I walked, I bethought me of poor Bill Nye, the 
Tinker. I could picture him tramping upon this very 
road, his jingling load upon his back, and the " loneliness " 
upon and around him. A small man, he would be, with a 
peaked face, little, round, twinkling eyes, grizzled hair, and 
a long, blue chin. How I came to know all this I cannot 
tell, only it seemed he must be so. On he went, his chin first 
upon one shoulder, and now upon the other, shooting fur- 
tive glances at hedges which were not hedges, and trees 
which were not trees. Somewhere there was a " thing ** 
that looked like a big oak-tree in the daytime — a hollow 
oak. On he went through the shadows, on and on. Pres- 



96 The Broad Highway 

ently he turned out of the road, and there, sure enough, 
was the oak itself. Kneeling down, he slipped off his bur- 
den and pushed it through a jagged hole at the root. Then 
he glanced round him, a long, stealthy look, down at the 
earth and up at the sky, and crept into the tree. In the 
dimness I could see him fumble for the thing he wanted, 
pause to thumb its edge, and, throwing up his chin, raise 
his hand 

" Folly ! " said I aloud, and stopped suddenly in my 
stride. 

The moon's rim was just topping the trees to my left, 
and its light, feeble though it was as yet, served to show that 
I had reached a place where four roads met. 

Now, casting my eyes about me, they were attracted by 
a great tree that grew near by, a tree of vast girth and 
bigness. And, as I looked, I saw that it was an oak-tree, 
near the root of which there was a jagged, black hole. 

How long I stood staring at this, I cannot say, but, all 
at once, the leaves of the tree were agitated as by a breath 
of wind, and rustled with a sound indescribably desolate, 
and from the dark mass rose the long-drawn, mournful cry 
of some ^ight bird. 

Heedless of my direction, I hurried away, yet, even 
when I had left it far behind, I glanced back more than 
once ere its towering branches were lost to my view. 

So I walked on through the shadows, past trees that wertj 
not trees, and hedges that were not hedges, but f rightfuJ. 
phantoms, rather, lifting menacing arms above my head., 
and reaching after me with clutching fingers. Time and 
again, ashamed of such weakness, I cursed myself for aiii 
imaginative fool, but kept well in the middle of the road, 
and grasped my staff firmly, notwithstanding. 

I had gone, perhaps, some mile or so in this way, alter- 
nately rating and reasoning with myself, when I suddenly 
fancied I heard a step behind me, and swung round upon 
my heel, with ready stick ; but the road stretched away — 
empty as far as I could see. Having looked about me on 
all sides, I presently went on again, yet, immediately, it 



In the Shadows 97 

seemed that the steps began also, keeping time with my own,, 
now slow, now fast, now slow again; but, whenever I 
turned, the road behind was apparently as empty and deso- 
late as ever. 

I can conceive of few things more nerve-racking than the 
knowledge that we are being dogged by something which 
we can only guess at, and that all our actions are watched 
by eyes which we cannot see. Thus, with every step, I 
found the situation grow more intolerable, for though I 
kept a close watch behind me and upon the black gloom of 
the hedges, I could see nothing. At length, however, I 
came upon a gap in the hedge where was a gate, and beyond 
this, vaguely outlined against a glimmer of sky, I saw a 
dim figure. 

Hereupon, running forward, I set my hand upon the 
gate, and leaping over, found myself face to face with a 
man who carried a gun across his arm. If I was startled 
at this sudden encounter he was no less so, and thus we 
stood eyeing each other as well as we might in the half 
light. 

" Well," I demanded, at last, " what do you mean hy 
following me like this ? " 

" I are n't follered ye," retorted the man. 

" But I heard your steps behind me." 

" Not mine, master. I 've sat and waited 'ere 'arf a 
hour, or more, for a poachin' cove " 

" But some one was following me." 

" Well, it were n't I. A keeper I be, a-lookin' for a 
poachin' cove just about your size, and it 's precious lucky 
for you as you are a-wearin' that there bell-crowned 
'at!" 

"Why so?" 

" Because, if you 'ad n't 'appened to be a-wearin' that 
there bell-crowner, and I 'ad n't 'appened to be of a argi- 
fyin' and inquirin' turn o' mind, I should ha' filled you full 
o' buckshot." 

" Oh? " said I. 

" Yes," said he, nodding, while I experienced a series of 



'98 The Broad Highway 

cold chills up my spine, " not a blessed doubt of it. 
Poachers," he went on, " don't wear bell-crowned 'ats as 
a rule — I never seed one as did ; and so, while I was 
a-watchin' of you be'ind this 'ere 'edge, I argies the matter 
in my mind. 6 Robert,' I says to meself, ' Robert,' I sez, 
' did you ever 'appen to see a poachin' cove in a bell- 
crowner afore? No, you never did,' sez I. ' But, on the 
other 'and, this 'ere cove is the very spit o' the poachin' 
cove as I 'm a-lookin' for. True ! ' sez I to meself, ' but 
this 'ere cove is a-wearin' of a bell-crowner 'at, but the 
poachin' cove never wore a bell-crowner — nor never will.' 
Still, I must say I come very near pullin' trigger on ye — 
just to make sure. So ye see it were precious lucky for 

you as you was a-wearin' o' that there " 

It certainly was," said I, turning away. 



" — that there bell-crowner, and likewise as I 'm a man 



» 



of a nat'ral gift for argiment, and of a inquirin' - 

" Without doubt," said I, vaulting over the gate into the 
road once more. 

" — turn o' mind, because if I 'ad n't 'a' been, and you 
*ad n't 'a' wore that there bell-crowner " 

" The consequences are unpleasantly obvious ! " said I 
over my shoulder, as I walked on down the road. 

" — I should ha' shot ye — like a dog ! " he shouted, 
hanging over the gate to do so. 

And, when I had gone on some distance, I took off that 
which the man had called a " bell-crowner," and bestowed 
upon it a touch, and looked at it as I had never done be- 
fore; and there was gratitude in look and touch, for to- 
night it had, indeed, stood my friend. 

Slowly, slowly the moon, at whose advent the starry host 
" paled their ineffectual fires," mounted into a cloudless 
heaven, higher and higher, in queenly majesty, until the 
dark world was filled with her glory, and the road before 
me became transformed into a silver track splashed here 
and there with the inky shadow of hedge and trees, and 
leading away into a land of " Faerie." 

Indeed, to my mind, there is nothing more delightful than 



In the Shadows 99 

to walk upon a country road, beneath a midsummer moon, 
when there is no sound to break the stillness, save, perhaps, 
the murmur of wind in trees, or the throbbing melody of 
some hidden brook. At such times the world of every day 
— the world of Things Material, the hard, hard world of 
Gommon-sense — seems to vanish quite, and we walk within 
the fair haven of our dreams, where Imagination meets, and 
kisses us upon the brow. And, at his touch, the Impossible 
straightway becomes the Possible; the Abstract becomes 
the Concrete; our fondest hopes are realized; our most 
cherished visions take form, and stand before us; surely, 
at such an hour, the gods come down to walk with us 
awhile. 

From this ecstasy I was suddenly aroused by hearing 
once more the sound of a footstep upon the road behind 
me. So distinct and unmistakable was it that I turned 
sharp about, and, though the road seemed as deserted as 
ever, I walked back, looking into every patch of shadow,, 
and even thrust into the denser parts of the hedges with 
my staff; but still I found no one. And yet I knew that 
I was being followed persistently, step by step, but by 
whom, and for what reason? 

A little farther on, upon one side of the way, was a small 
wood or coppice, and now I made towards this, keeping 
well in the shadow of the hedge. The trees were somewhat 
scattered, but the underbrush was very dense, and amongst 
this I hid myself where I could watch the road, and waited. 
Minute after minute elapsed, and, losing patience, I was 
about to give up all hope of thus discovering my unknown 
pursuer, when a stick snapped sharply near by, and, glanc- 
ing round, I thought I saw a head vanish behind the bole 
of an adjacent tree; wherefore I made quickly towards 
that tree, but ere I reached it, a man stepped out. A tall, 
loose-limbed fellow he was, clad in rough clothes (that 
somehow had about them a vague suggestion of ships and 
the sea), and with a moth-eaten, fur cap crushed down upon 
his head. His face gleamed pale, and his eyes were deep- 
sunken, and very bright; also, I noticed that one hand 



ioo The Broad Highway- 

was hidden in the pocket of his coat. But most of all, I 
was struck by the extreme pallor of his face, and the burn- 
ing brilliancy of his eyes. 

And, with the glance that showed me all this, I recognized 
the Outside Passenger. 



CHAPTER XVII 

HOW I TALKED WITH A MADMAN IN A WOOD 
BY MOONLIGHT 

" Good evening, sir ! " he said, in a strange, hurried sort 
of way, " the moon, you will perceive, is very nearly at the 
full to-night." And his voice, immediately, struck me as 
being at odds with his clothes. 

" Why do you stand and peer at me ? " said I sharply. 

" Peer at you, sir ? " 

" Yes, from behind the tree, yonder." As I spoke, he 
craned his head towards me, and I saw his pale lips twitch 
suddenly. " And why have you dogged me ; why have 
you followed me all the way from Tonb ridge? " 

" Why, sir, surely there is nothing so strange in that. 
I am a shadow." 

" What do you mean by ' a shadow ' ? " 

" Sir, I am a shadow cast by neither sun, nor moon, nor 
star, that moves on unceasingly in dark as in light. Sir, 
it is my fate (in common with my kind), to be ever upon 
the move — a stranger everywhere without friends or kin- 
dred. I have been, during the past year, all over England, 
east, and west, and north, and south ; within the past week, 
for instance, I have travelled from London to Epsom, 
from Epsom to Brighton, from Brighton back again to 
London, and from London here. And I peer at you, sir, 
because I wished to make certain what manner of man you 
were before I spoke, and though the moon is bright, yet 
your hat-brim left your face in shade." 

" Well, are you satisfied? " 



102 The Broad Highway 

" So much so, sir, so very much so, that I should like to 
talk with you, to — to ask you a question," he answered, 
passing his hand — a thin, white hand — across his brow, 
and up over the fur cap that was so out of keeping with 
the pale face below. 

" A question ? " 

" If you will be so obliging as to listen, sir ; let us sit 
awhile, for I am very weary." And with the words he 
sank down upon the grass. After a momentary hesitation, 
I followed his example, for my curiosity was piqued by the 
fellow's strange manner; yet, when we were sitting oppo- 
site each other, I saw that his hand was still hidden in the 
pocket of his coat. 

" Perhaps, sir," said he, in his nervous, hurried man- 
ner, " perhaps you would be better able to answer my 
question were I first to tell you a story — an ordinary, a 
very commonplace one, I fear, but with the virtue that it is 
short, and soon told." 

" My time is entirely my own," said I, leaning with my 
shoulders against the tree behind me ; " proceed with your 
story." 

" First, then, my name is Strickland — John Strick- 
land!" 

Here he paused, and, though his head was bent, I saw 
him watching me beneath his brows. 

"Well?" said I. 

" I am a supercargo." 

Again he paused expectantly, but seeing I merely 
nodded, he continued: 

" Upon one of my voyages, our vessel was wrecked, and, 
so far as I know, all save myself and six others — four 
seamen and two passengers — were drowned. The pas- 
sengers I speak of were an old merchant — and his daugh- 
ter, a very beautiful girl ; her name was — Angela, sir." 

Once again he paused and again he eyed me narrowly. 

" Well? " said I. 

" Well, sir," he resumed, speaking in a low, repressed 
voice, " we seven, after two miserable days in a drifting 



I Talked with a Madman in a Wood 103 

boat, reached an island where, that same night, the old 
merchant died. Sir, the sailors were wild, rough men ; the 
island was a desolate one from whence there was seemingly 
no chance of escape, it lying out of the usual track of 
ships, and this girl was, as I have said, very beautiful. 
Under such conditions her fate would have been unspeak- 
able degradation, and probably death; but, sir, I fought 
and bled for her, not once but many times, and eventually 
I killed one of them with my sheath-knife, and I remember, 
to this hour, how his blood gushed over my hands and 
arms, and sickened me. After that they waited hourly to 
avenge his death, and get me out of their way once and for 
all, but I had my long knife, and they but such rude 
weapons as they could devise. Day after day, and night 
after night, I watched for an opportunity to escape with 
the boat, until at last, one day while they were all three 
gone inland, not dreaming of any such attempt, for the 
sea was very dangerous and high, with the girl's help I 
managed to launch the boat, and so stood out to sea. And 
I remember those three sailors came running with great 
shouts and cries, and flung themselves down upon the 
beach, and crawled upon their knees, praying to be taken 
off along with us, and begging us not to leave them to 
perish. After three days' buffeting at the mercy of the 
seas, we were picked up by a brig bound for Portsmouth, 
and, six months later, were in England. Sir, it is impos- 
sible for a man to have lived beside a beautiful woman 
day by day, to have fought for and suffered with her, not 
to love her also. Thus, seeing her friendless and penni- 
less, I wooed and won her to wife. We came to London, 
and for a year our life was perfect, until, through stress 
of circumstances, I was forced to take another position 
aboard ship. Well, sir, I bade farewell to my wife, and 
we set sail. The voyage, which was to have lasted but 
three months, was lengthened out through one misadven- 
ture after another, so that it was a year before I saw my 
wife again. At first I noticed little difference in her save 
that she was paler, but, gradually, I came to see that she 



104 The Broad Highway 

was unhappy. Often I have wakened in the night to find 
her weeping silently. 

" Oh, sir ! " he broke out, " I do not think there is any- 
thing more terrible than to witness in one we love a sorrow 
we are unable to reach ! " Here he paused, and I saw that 
the sweat stood out upon his brow, and that his hand was 
tight clenched as he drew it across his temples. " At last, 
sir," he went on, speaking once more in a low, repressed 
tone, " returning home one day, I found her — gone." 

"Gone?" said I. 

" Gone, sir." 

"And she left no trace — no letter ?" 

" No, she left no letter, sir, but I did find something — 
a something that had rolled into a corner of the room." 

" And what was that ? " 

" This, sir ! " As he spoke, his burning eyes never leav- 
ing mine, he thrust a hand into his bosom — his left hand, 
for his right was where it had been all along, hidden in his 
pocket — and held out to me -a gold seal such as gentlemen 
wear at their fobs. 

"Ah! "I exclaimed. 

" Take it ! " said the man, thrusting it towards me ; 
" look at it ! " Obediently I took the trinket from him, 
and, examining it as well as I might, saw that a letter was 
engraved upon it, one of those ornamental initials sur- 
rounded by rococo scrolls and flourishes. 

" What letter does it bear ? " asked the man in a stran- 
gled voice. 

" It looks very like the letter 6 Y,' " I answered 

" The letter 4 Y ' ! " cried the man, and then, with a ges- 
ture sudden and fierce, he snatched the seal from me, and, 
thrusting it back into his bosom, laughed strangely. 

" Why do you laugh? " said I. 

" To be sure," said he harshly, " the light might be 
better, and yet — well ! well ! my story is nearly done. 
I lived on in my lonely house from day to day, and month 
to month, hoping and waiting for her to come back to me. 
And one day she did come back to me — just about this 



I Talked with a Madman in a Wood 105 

hour it was, sir, and on just such another evening; and 
that same night — she died." 

" Good God ! " I exclaimed. " Poor fellow ! " And, lean- 
ing forward, I laid my hand upon his knee, but, at my 
touch, he drew back so quickly, and with a look so evil, 
that I was startled. 

" Hands off ! " said he, and so sat staring at me with his 
smouldering eyes. 

" Are you mad? " said I, and sprang to my feet. 

" Not yet," he answered, and once again he passed his 
hand up, and over his face and brow ; " no, not yet, sir." 
Here he rose, and stood facing me, and I noticed that one 
hand was still hidden in his pocket, and, thereafter, while 
I listened to him, I kept my eyes directed thither. " That 
night — before she — died, sir," he continued, " she told 
me the name of the man who had destroyed her, and killed 
my soul; and I have been searching for him ever since — 
east, and west, and north, and south. Now, sir, here is my 
question: If I should ever meet that man face to face, as 
I now see you, should I not be justified in — killing him? " 

For a moment I stood with bent head, yet conscious all 
the while of the burning eyes that scanned my face, then : 

" Yes," said I. 

The man stood utterly still, his mouth opened as if he 
would have spoken, but no word came. All at once he 
turned about, and walked unsteadily five or six paces. 
Now, as I looked, I saw him suddenly draw his hand from 
his pocket, then, as he wheeled, I knew, and hurled myself 
face downward as the pistol flashed. 

" Madman ! " I cried, and next moment was on my feet ; 
but, with a sound that was neither a groan nor a scream, 
and yet something of both, he leapt into the thickest part 
of the underbrush, and made off. And standing there, 
dazed by the suddenness of it all, I heard the snapping of 
twigs grow fainter and fainter as he crashed through in 
headlong flight. 



CHAPTER XVIII 



THE HEDGE-TAVERN 



Twigs whipped my face, thorns and brambles dragged at 
my clothes, hidden obstacles lay in wait for my feet, for 
the wood grew denser as I advanced, but I pushed on, heed- 
less alike of these and of what direction I took. But, as 
luck would have it, I presently blundered upon a path 
which, in a short time, brought me out very suddenly into 
what appeared to be a small tavern yard, for on either 
hand was a row of tumble-down stables and barns, while 
before me was a low, rambling structure which I judged 
was the tavern itself. I was yet standing looking about 
me when a man issued from the stables upon my right, 
bearing a hammer in one hand and a lanthorn in the 
other. 

" Hallo ! " said he, staring at me. 

" Hallo ! " said I, staring at him. 

" You don't chance to 'ave a axle-bolt about you, I 
suppose ? " 

" No," said I. 

" Humph ! " he grunted, and, lowering his lanthorn, 
began searching among the cobblestones. 

" Is this it? " I inquired, picking up a rusty screw-bolt 
at my feet. 

" Ah ! " said he, taking it from me with a nod, " know'd 
I dropped it 'ere some'eres. Ye see," he went on, " could n't 
get another round 'ere to-night, and that cussed axle 's got 
to be in place to-morra." 

"Yes? "said I. 

" Ah ! " nodded the man, " chaise come in 'ere 'arf-an- 



The Hedge-Tavern 107 

hour ago wi' two gentlemen and a lady, in the Lord's own 
'urry too. ' Mend this axle, me man,' says one on 'em — 
a top-sawyer be the looks on 'im — ' mend this axle, and 
quick about it.' ' Can't be done, my lord,' says I. ■ W'y 
not ? ' says 'e, showin' 'is teeth savage-like. ' Because it 
can't,' says I, * not no'ow, me lord,' says I. Well, after 
cussin' 'isself well-nigh black in the face, 'e orders me to 
'ave it ready fust thing to-morra, and if you 'ad n't found 
that there bolt for me it would n't 'ave been ready fust 
thing to-morra, which would ha' been mighty bad for me, 
for this 'ere gentleman 's a fire-and-fury out-and-outer, 
and no error." 

" Can I have a bed here, do you think? " I inquired. 

" Ah," said he, " I think you can." 

" For how much, do you suppose? " 

" To you — sixpence." 

" Why, that seems reasonable," said I. 

" It are," nodded the man, " and a fine feather bed too I 
But then, Lord, one good turn deserves another " 

" Meaning? " 

" This 'ere bolt." 

" Are you the landlord, then ? " 

" I be ; and if you feel inclined for a mug o' good ale — 
say the word." 

" Most willingly," said I, " but what of the axle? " 

" Plenty o' time for th' axle," nodded the landlord, and 
setting down his hammer upon a bench hard by, he led the 
way into the tap. The ale was very strong and good; 
indeed this lovely county of Kent is justly famous for such. 
Finding myself very hungry, the landlord forthwith pro- 
duced a mighty round of beef, upon which we both fell to, 
and ate with a will. Which done, I pulled out my negro- 
head pipe, and the landlord fetching himself another, we 
sat awhile smoking. And presently, learning I was from 
London, he began plying me with all manner of questions 
concerning the great city, of which it seemed he could not 
hear enough, and I, to describe its wonders as well as 
I might. At length, bethinking him of his axle, he rose 



108 The Broad Highway 

with a sigh. Upon my requesting to be shown my room, 
he lighted a candle, and led the way up a somewhat rickety 
stair, along a narrow passage, and throwing open a door 
at the end, I found myself in a fair-sized chamber with a 
decent white bed, which he introduced to my notice by the 
one word, " feathers." Hereupon he pinched off the 
snuff of the candle with an expression of ponderous 
thought. 

" And so the Tower o' London ain't a tower ? " he in- 
quired at last. 

" No," I answered ; " it is composed of several towers 
surrounded by very strong, battlemented walls." 

" Ah — to — be — sure," said he, " ah, to be sure ! 
And me 'ave alius thought on it like it was a great big tower 
standin' in the midst o' the city, as 'igh as a mountain. 
Humph — not a tower — ha ! disapp'inted I be. Humph ! 
Good night, master. Disapp'inted I be — yes." And 
having nodded his head ponderously several times, he 
turned and went ponderously along the passage and down 
the stair. 

At the end of my chamber was a long, low casement, and, 
drawn thither by the beauty of the night, I flung open the 
lattice and leaned out. I looked down upon a narrow, 
deeply-rutted lane, one of those winding, inconsequent 
byways which it seems out of all possibility can ever lead 
the traveler anywhere, and I was idly wondering what fool 
had troubled to build a tavern in such a remote, out-of- 
the-way spot, when my ears were saluted hj the sound of 
voices. Now, immediately beneath my window there was a 
heavy porch, low and squat, from which jutted a beam with 
a broken sign-board, and it was from beneath this porch 
that the voices proceeded, the one loud and hectoring, the 
other gruff and sullen. I was about to turn away when a 
man stepped out into the moonlight. His face was hidden 
in the shadow of his hat-brim, but from his general air and 
appearance I judged him to be one of the gentlemen whose 
chaise had broken down. As I watched him he walked 
6lowly round the angle of the house and disappeared. In 



The Hedge-Tavern 109 

a little while, I drew in my head from the casement, and, 
having removed my dusty boots, together with my knap- 
sack and coat, blew out the candle, and composed myself 
to sleep. 

Now it seemed to me that I was back upon the road, 
standing once more beside the great oak-tree. And, as 
I watched, a small, hunched figure crept from the jagged 
opening in the trunk, a figure with a jingling pack upon 
its back, at sight of which I turned and ran, filled with an 
indescribable terror. But, as I went, the Tinker's pack 
jingled loud behind me, and when I glanced back, I saw 
that he ran with head dangling in most hideous fashion, 
and that his right hand grasped a razor. On I sped faster 
and faster, but with the Tinker ever at my heels, until I 
had reached this tavern; the door crashed to, behind me, 
only just in time, and I knew, as I lay there, that he was 
standing outside, in the moonlight, staring up at my case- 
ment with his horrible, dead face. 

Here I very mercifully awoke, and lay, for a while, blink- 
ing in the ghostly radiance of the moon, which was flooding 
in at the window directly upon me. Now whether it was 
owing to the vividness of my dream, I know not, but as 
I lay, there leapt up within me a sudden conviction that 
somebody was indeed standing outside in the lane, staring 
up at my window. So firmly was I convinced of this that, 
moved by a sudden impulse, I rose, and, cautiously ap- 
proaching the window, peered out. And there, sure 
enough, his feet planted wide apart, his hands behind his 
back, stood a man staring up at my window. His head 
was thrown back so that I could see his face distinctly — 
a fleshy face with small, close-set eyes and thick lips, behind 
which I caught the gleam of big, white teeth. This was no 
tinker, but as I looked, I recognized him as the slenderer 
of the two " Corinthians " with whom I had fallen out at 
" The Chequers." Hereupon I got me back to bed, 
drowsily wondering what should bring the fellow hanging 
about a dilapidated hedge-tavern at such an hour. But 
gradually my thoughts grew less coherent, my eyes closed, 



no The Broad Highway 

and in another moment I should have been asleep, when I 
suddenly came to my elbow, broad awake and listening, for 
I had heard two sounds, the soft creak of a window opened 
cautiously near by, and a stealthy footstep outside my 
door. 



CHAPTER XIX 

IN WHICH I BECOME A SQUIRE OF DAMES 

Who does not recognize the solemn majesty of Night — • 
that season of awesome stillness when tired mankind lies 
supine in that strange inertia so like death ; when the soul, 
quitting the wearied body for a space, flies hence — but 
whither ? 

What wonder is it if, at such an hour as this, we are 
prone to magnify trifles, or that the most insignificant 
thing becomes an omen full of ghastly meaning and pos- 
sibilities? The creak of a door in the silence, a rustle in 
the dark, become to us of infinitely greater moment than 
the crash of falling empires. 

Thus, for a space, I lay, with ears on the stretch, and 
every nerve tingling, waiting for — I knew not what. 

In a little, I became conscious of yet another sound, 
indescribably desolate: the low, repressed sound of a 
woman's sobbing. 

Once more I rose, and looking down into the lane, found 
it deserted; the watcher had vanished. I also noticed 
that the casement next to mine had been opened wide, 
and it was from here, as it seemed, that the weeping 
proceeded. 

After some little hesitation, I knocked softly upon the 
wall, at which the weeping was checked abruptly, save for 
an occasional sob, whereupon I presently rapped again. 
At this, after a moment or so, I saw a very small, white 
hand appear at the neighboring window, and next moment 
was looking into a lovely, flushed face framed in bright 
hair, with eyes woefully swelled by tears — but a glance 



ii2 The Broad Highway 

showed me that she was young, and of a rare and gentle 
beauty. 

Before I could speak, she laid her finger upon her lip 
with a warning gesture. 

" Help me — oh, help me ! " she whispered hurriedly ; 
" they have locked me in here, and I dare not go to bed, 
and — and — oh, what shall I do ? " 

" Locked you in ? " I exclaimed. 

" Oh, what shall I do? " she sobbed. " I tell you I am 
afraid of him — his hateful, wicked eyes ! " Here a tremor 
seemed to shake her, and she covered her face with her 
hands. " To-night, when I found the key gone from the 
door, and remembered his look as he bade me * Good night,' 
I thought I should have died. I waited here, close beside 
the window — listening, listening. Once I thought I heard 
a step outside my door, and opened the casement to 
throw myself out; he shall not find me here when he 
comes." 

" No," said I, "he shall not find you here when he 
comes." 

All this she had imparted to me in broken whispers, and 
with her face still hidden, but, at my words, she peeped at 
me through her fingers. 

"You mean?" 

" You must run away." 

" But the door is locked." 

" There remains the window." 

" The window ! " she repeated, trembling. 

" You would find it easy enough with my help." 

" Quick, then ! " she exclaimed, and held out her hand. 

" Wait," said I, and turned back into my room. Here- 
upon, having locked the door, I got into my boots, slipped 
on my coat and knapsack, and, last of all, threw my black- 
thorn staff out of the window (where I was sure of finding 
it) and climbed out after it. 

The porch I have mentioned, upon which I now stood, 
sloped steeply down upon two sides, so that I had no little 
difficulty in maintaining my foothold; on the other hand, 



I Become a Squire of Dames 113 

it was no great distance from the ground, and I thought 
that it would be easy enough of descent. 

At this moment the lady reappeared at the lattice. 

" What is it? " I whispered, struck by the terror in her 
face. 

" Quick ! " she cried, forgetting all prudence in her fear, 
" quick — they are coming — I hear some one upon the 
stair. Oh, you are too late ! " and, sinking upon her knees, 
she covered her face with her hands. Without more ado I 
swung myself up, and clambered over the sill into the room 
beside her. I was looking round for something that might 
serve me for a weapon, when my eye encountered a tall oak 
press, a heavy, cumbersome affair, but, save the bed, the 
only furniture the room possessed. Setting my shoulder 
to it therefore, I began to urge it towards the door. But 
it was soon apparent that I could not get it there in time, 
for the creeping footstep was already close outside, and, 
next moment, a key was softly inserted in the lock. 

" Quick ! hide yourself ! " I whispered, over my shoul- 
der, and, stepping back from the door to give myself room, 
I clenched my fists. There was a faint creak as the key 
turned, the door was opened cautiously, and a man's dim 
figure loomed upon the threshold. 

He had advanced two or three paces on tiptoe before he 
discovered my presence, for the room was in shadow, and 
I heard his breath catch, suddenly, and hiss between his 
teeth; then, without a word, he sprang at me. But as he 
came, I leapt aside, and my fist took him full and squarely 
beneath the ear. He pitched sideways, and, falling heavily, 
rolled over upon his back, and lay still. 

As I leaned above him, however (for the blow had been 
a heavy one), he uttered a groaning oath, whereupon, 
pinning him forthwith by the collar, I dragged him out 
into the passage, and, whipping the key from the lock, 
transferred it to the inside and locked the door. Waiting 
for no more, I scrambled back through the casement, and 
reached up my hand to the lady. 

" Come," said I, and (almost as quickly as it takes to 



ii4 The Broad Highway 

set it down here) she was beside me upon the roof of the 
porch, clinging to my arm. Exactly how it was managed 
I am unable to say; all that I remember being the vision 
of a slender foot and ankle, and an excellently shaped 
leg. 

Our farther descent to the ground proved much more 
difficult than I had supposed, but, though I could feel her 
trembling, my companion obeyed my whispered instruc- 
tions, and yielded herself implicitly to my guidance, so 
that we were soon standing in the lane before the house, 
safe and sound except for a few rents to our garments. 

" What is it? " she whispered, seeing me searching about 
in the grass. 

" My staff," said I, " a faithful friend ; I would not 
lose it." 

" But they will be here in a minute — we shall be seen." 

" I cannot lose my staff," said I. 

" Oh, hurry ! hurry ! " she cried, wringing her hands. 
And, in a little while, having found my staff, we turned our 
backs upon the tavern and began to run up the lane, side 
by side. As we went, came the slam of a door behind us — 
a sudden clamor of voices, followed, a moment later, by 
the sharp report of a pistol, and, in that same fraction of 
time, I stumbled over some unseen obstacle, and my hat 
was whisked from my head. 

" Are you hurt ? " panted my companion. 

" No," said I, " but it was a very excellent shot never- 
theless ! " For, as I picked up my hat, I saw a small round 
hole that pierced it through and through, midway between 
crown and brim. 

The lane wound away between high hedges, which ren- 
dered our going very dark, for the moon was getting low, 
and difficult by reason of the deep wheel-ruts ; but we 
hurried forward notwithstanding, urged on by the noise of 
the chase. We had traversed some half mile thus, when 
my ears warned me that our pursuers were gaining upon 
us, and I was inwardly congratulating myself that I had 
stopped to find my staff, and wondering how much exe- 



I Become a Squire of Dames 115 

cution such a weapon might reasonably be capable of, when 
I found that my companion was no longer at my side. As 
I paused, irresolute, her voice reached me from the shadow 
of the hedge. 

" This way," she panted. 

"Where?" said I. 

" Here ! " and, as she spoke, her hand slipped into mine, 
and so she led me through a small gate, into a broad, open 
meadow beyond. But to attempt crossing this would be 
little short of madness, for (as I pointed out) we could 
not go a yard without being seen. 

" No, no," she returned, her breath still laboring, " wait 
— wait till they are past." And so, hand in hand, we stood 
there in the shadow, screened very effectively from the lane 
by the thick hedge, while the rush of our pursuers' feet 
drew nearer and nearer; until we could hear a voice that 
panted out curses upon the dark lane, ourselves, and every- 
thing concerned ; at sound of which my companion seemed 
to fall into a shivering fit, her clasp tightened upon my 
hand, and she drew closer to me. Thus we remained until 
voices and footsteps had grown faint with distance, but, 
even then, I could feel that she was trembling still. Sud- 
denly she drew her fingers from mine, and covered her face 
with her hands. 

" Oh, that man ! " she exclaimed, in a whisper, " I 
did n't quite realize till now — what I have escaped. Oh, 
that beast!" 

" Sir Harry Mortimer? " said I. 

" You know him ? " she cried. 

" Heaven forbid ! " I answered, " but I have seen him 
once before at ' The Chequers ' inn at Tonbridge, and I 
never forget names or faces — especially such as his." 

" How I hate him ! " she whispered. 

" An unpleasant animal, to be sure," said I. " But come, 
it were wiser to get as far from here as possible, they will 
doubtless be returning soon." 

So we started off again, running in the shadow of the 
hedge. We had thus doubled back upon our pursuers, and, 



n6 The Broad Highway 

leaving the tavern upon our left, soon gained the kindly 
shadow of those woods through which I had "passed in the 
early evening. 

Borne to us upon the gentle wind was the haunting 
perfume of hidden flowers, and the sinking moon sent long 
shafts of silvery light to pierce the leafy gloom, and make 
the shadows more mysterious. 

The path we followed was very narrow, so that some- 
times my companion's knee touched mine, or her long, 
silken hair brushed my brow or cheek, as I stooped to lift 
some trailing branch that barred her way, or open a path 
for her through the leaves. 

So we journeyed on through the mysteries of the woods 
together. 



CHAPTER XX 

CONCERNING DEMONS IN GENERAL AND ONE IN 
PARTICULAR 

In certain old books you shall find strange mention of 
witches, warlocks, succubae, spirits, daemons, and a thousand 
other powers of darkness, whose pronounced vocation was 
the plague of poor humanity. Within these books you may 
read (if you will) divers wondrous accounts, together with 
many learned disquisitions upon the same, and most minute 
and particular descriptions of witch-marks and the like. 

Aforetime, when a man committed some great offence 
against laws human or divine, he was said to be possessed 
of a daemon — that is to say, he became the medium and 
instrument through, and by which, the evil was wrought; 
thus, when in due season he came to be hanged, tortured, 
or burned, it was inflicted not so much as a punishment 
upon him, the man, as to exorcise, once and for all, the 
devil which possessed him. 

In these material, common-sense days, we are wont to 
smile the superior smile at the dark superstitions and de- 
plorable ignorance of our forefathers ; yet life is much the 
same now as then, the devil goeth up and down in the 
world, spirits, daemons, and the thousand powers of dark- 
ness abide with us still, though to-day they go by different 
names, for there is no man in this smug, complacent age 
of ours, but carries within him a power of evil greater or 
less, according to his intellect. Scratch off the social 
veneer, lift but a corner of the very decent cloak of our 
civilization, and behold ! there stands the Primal Man in all 



1 1 8 The Broad Highway 

his old, wild savagery, and with the devil leering upon his 
shoulder. Indeed, to-day as surely as in the dim past, we 
are all possessed of a devil great or small, weaker or 
stronger as the case may be; a daemon which, though he 
sometimes seems to slumber, is yet watchful and ever ready 
to spring up and possess us, to the undoing of ourselves 
and others. 

Thus, as I followed my companion through the wood, 
I was conscious of a Daemon that ran beside me, leaping 
and gambolling at my elbow, though I kept my eyes 
straight before me. Anon, his clutching fingers were upon 
my arm, and fain I would have shaken him off, but could 
not ; while, as I watched the swing and grace of the lithe, 
feminine body before me, from the little foot to the crown- 
ing glory of her hair, she seemed a thousand times more 
beautiful than I had supposed. And I had saved her to- 
night — from what ? There had been the fear of worse 
than death in her eyes when that step had sounded outside 
her chamber door. Hereupon, as I walked, I began to 
recall much that I had read in the old romances of the grat- 
itude of rescued ladies. 

" Truly," said I to myself, " in olden days a lady well 
knew how to reward her rescuer ! " 

" Woman is woman — the same to-day as then — try 
her, try her ! " chuckled the Daemon. And now, as I looked 
more fully at this Daemon, he seemed no daemon at all, but 
rather, a jovial companion who nodded, and winked, and 
nudged me slyly with his elbow. " What are pretty faces 
for but to be admired?" said he in my ear; "what are 
slender waists for but to be pressed; and as for a kiss or 
two in a dark wood, with no one to spy — they like it, you 
dog, they like it ! " 

So we traversed the alleys of the wood, now in shadow, 
now in moonlight, the Lady, the Daemon, and I, and always 
the perfume of hidden flowers seemed sweeter and stronger, 
the gleam of her hair and the sway of her body the more 
alluring, and always the voice at my ear whispered: " Try 
tier, you dog, try her." 



Concerning Daemons 119 

At last, being come to a broad, grassy glade, the lady 
paused, and, standing in the full radiance of the dying 
moon, looked up at me with a smile on her red lips. 

" They can never find us now ! " she said. 

" No, they can never find us now," I repeated, while the 
Daemon at my elbow chuckled again. 

" And — oh, sir ! I can never, never thank you," she 
began. 

" Don't," said I, not looking at her ; " don't thank me 
till — we are out of the wood." 

" I think," she went on slowly, " that you — can guess 
from -*- from what you saved me, and can understand 
something of my gratitude, for I can never express it all." 

" Indeed," said I, " indeed you overestimate my service." 

" You risked your life for me, sir," said she, her eyes 
glistening, "surely my thanks are due to you for that? 
And I do thank you — from my heart ! " And with a 
swift, impulsive gesture, she stretched out her hands to 
me. For a brief moment I hesitated, then seized them, and 
drew her close. But, even as I stooped above her, she re- 
pulsed me desperately; her loosened hair brushed my 
eyes and lips — blinded, maddened me ; my hat fell off, 
and all at once her struggles ceased. 

" Sir Maurice Vibart ! " she panted, and I saw a hopeless 
terror in her face. But the Daemon's jovial voice chuckled 
in my ear: 

" Ho, Peter Vibart, act up to your cousin's reputation ; 
who 's to know the difference ? " My arms tightened 
about her, then I loosed her suddenly, and, turning, smote 
my clenched fist against a tree ; which done, I stooped and 
picked up my hat and blackthorn staff. 

" Madam," said I, looking down upon my bleeding 
knuckles, " I am not Sir Maurice Vibart. It seems my 
fate to be mistaken for him wherever I go. My name is 
Peter, plain and unvarnished, and I am very humbly your 
servant." Now as I spoke, it seemed that the Daemon, no 
longer the jovial companion, was himself again, horns, 
hoof, and tail — nay, indeed, he seemed a thousand times 



120 The Broad Highway 

more foul and hideous than before, as he mouthed and jibed 
at me in baffled fury; wherefore, I smiled and turned my 
back upon him. 

" Come," said I, extending my hand to the trembling 
girl, " let us get out of these dismal woods." For a space 
she hesitated, looking up at me beneath her lashes, then 
reached out, and laid her fingers in mine ; and, as we turned 
away, I knew that the Daemon had cast himself upon the 
ground, and was tearing at the grass in a paroxysm of 
rage and bafflement. 

" It is strange," said I, after we had gone some little dis- 
tance, " very strange that you should only have discovered 
this resemblance here, and now, for surely you saw my face 
plainly enough at the inn." 

" No ; you see, I hardly looked at you." 

" And, now that you do look at me, am I so very much 
like Sir Maurice? " 

" Not now," she answered, shaking her head, " for 
though you are of his height, and though your features 
are much the same as his, your expression is different. But 
a moment ago — when your hat fell off " 

"Yes? "said I. 

" Your expression — your face looked " 

" Demoniac? " I suggested. 

" Yes," she answered. 

"Yes?" said I. 

So we went upon our way, nor paused until we had left 
the Daemon and the dark woods behind us. Then I looked 
from the beauty of the sweet, pure earth to the beauty of 
her who stood beside me, and I saw that her glance rested 
upon the broken knuckles of my right hand. Meeting my 
eyes, her own drooped, and a flush crept into her cheeks, 
and, though of course she could not have seen the Daemon, 
yet I think that she understood. 



CHAPTER XXI 

" JOURNEYS END IN LOVERS' MEETINGS " 

The moon was fast sinking below the treetops to our left, 
what time we reached a road, or rather cart-track that 
wound away up a hill. Faint and far a church clock slowly 
chimed the hour of three, the solemn notes coming sweet 
and silvery with distance. 

" What chimes are those ? " I inquired. 

" Cranbrook Church." 

" Is it far to Cranbrook? " 

" One mile this way, but two by the road yonder." 

" You seem very well acquainted with these parts," 
said I. 

" I have lived here all my life ; those are the Cambourne 
Woods over there " 

" Cambourne Woods ! " said I. 

" Part of the Sefton estates," she continued ; " Cam- 
bourne village lies to the right, beyond." 

" The Lady Sophia Sefton of Cambourne ! " said I 
thoughtfully. 

" My dearest friend," nodded my companion. 

" They say she is very handsome," said I. 

" Then they speak truth, sir." 

" She has been described to me," I went on, " as a Peach, 
a Goddess, and a Plum ; ' which should you consider the 
most proper term? " My companion shot an arch glance 
at me from the corners of her eyes, and I saw a dimple 
come and go, beside the curve of her mouth. 

" Goddess, to be sure," said she ; " peaches have sueh 
rough skins, and plums are apt to be sticky." 



122 The Broad Highway 

" And goddesses," I added, " were all very well upon 
Olympus, but, in this matter-of-fact age, must be sadly 
out of place. Speaking for myself " 

" Have you ever seen this particular Goddess ? " inquired 
my companion. 

" Never." 

" Then wait until you have, sir." 

The moon was down now, yet the summer sky was won- 
derfully luminous and in the east I almost fancied I could 
detect the first faint gleam of day. And after we had 
traversed some distance in silence, my companion suddenly 
spoke, but without looking at me. 

" You have never once asked who I am," she said, al- 
most reproachfully I thought, " nor how I came to be shut 
up in such a place — with such a man." 

" Why, as to that," I answered, " I make it a general 
rule to avoid awkward subjects when I can, and never to 
ask questions that it will be difficult to answer." 

" I should find not the least difficulty in answering 
either," said she. 

" Besides," I continued, " it is no affair of mine, after all." 

" Oh ! " said she, turning away from me ; and then, very 
slowly : " No, I suppose not." 

" Certainly not," I added; " how should it be? " 

" How indeed ! " said she, over her shoulder. And then 
I saw that she was angry, and wondered. 

" And yet," I went on, after a lapse of silence, " I think 
I could have answered both questions the moment I saw you 
at your casement." 

" Oh ! " said she — this time in a tone of surprise, and 
her anger all gone again, for I saw that she was smiling; 
and again I wondered. 

" Yes," I nodded. 

" Then," said she, seeing I was silent, " whom do you 
suppose me? " 

" You are, to the best of my belief, the Lady Helen 
Dunstan." My companion stood still, and regarded me 
for a moment in wide-eyed astonishment. 



Lovers' Meetings 123 

" And how, sir, pray, did you learn all this ? " she de- 
manded, with the dimple once more peeping at me slyly 
from the corner of her pretty mouth. 

" By the very simple method of adding two and two 
together," I answered ; " moreover, no longer ago than 
yesterday I broke bread with a certain Mr. Beverley " 

I heard her breath come in a sudden gasp, and next 
moment she was peering up into my face while her hands 
beat upon my breast with soft, quick little taps. 

" Beverley ! " she whispered. " Beverley ! — no, no — 
why, they told me — Sir Harry told me that Peregrine 
lay dying — at Tonbridge." 

" Then Sir Harry Mortimer lied to you," said I, 
" for no longer ago than yesterday afternoon I sat in 
a ditch eating bread and cheese with a Mr. Peregrine 
Beverley." 

" Oh ! — are you sure — are you sure ? " 

" Quite sure. And, as we ate, he told me many things, 
and among them of a life of wasted opportunities — of 
foolish riot, and prodigal extravagance, and of its logical 
consequence — want." 

" My poor Perry ! " she murmured. 

" He spoke also of his love for a very beautiful and good 
woman, and its hopelessness." 

" My dear, dear Perry ! " said she again. 

" And yet," said I, " all this is admittedly his own fault, 
and, as I think Heraclitus says : ' Suffering is the inevitable 
consequence of Sin, or Folly.' " 

" And he is well? " she asked ; " quite — quite well? " 

" He is," said I. 

" Thank God ! " she whispered. " Tell me," she went 
on, "is he so very, very poor — is he much altered? I 
have not seen him for a whole, long year." 

" Why, a year is apt to change a man," I answered. 
" Adversity is a hard school, but, sometimes, a very good 
one." 

" Were he changed, no matter how — were he a beggar 
upon the roads, I should love him — always ! " said she, 



124 The Broad Highway 

speaking in that soft, caressing voice which only the best 
of women possess. 

" Yes, I had guessed as much," said I, and found my- 
self sighing. 

" A year is a long, long time, and we were to have been 
married this month, but my father quarrelled with him and 
forbade him the house, so poor Perry went back to London. 
Then we heard he was ruined, and I almost died with grief 
— you see, his very poverty only made me love him the 
more. Yesterday — that man " 

" Sir Harry Mortimer? " said I. 

" Yes (he was a friend of whom I had often heard Perry 
speak) ; and he told me that my Perry lay at Tonbridge, 
dying, and begging to see me before the end. He offered 
to escort me to him, assuring me that I could reach home 
again long before dusk. My father, who I knew would 
never permit me to go, was absent, and so — I ran away. 
Sir Harry had a carriage waiting, but, almost as soon as 
the door was closed upon us, and we had started, I began 
to be afraid of him and — and " 

" Sir Harry, as I said before, is an unpleasant animal," 
I nodded. 

" Thank Heaven," she pursued, " we had not gone very 
far before the chaise broke down! And — the rest you 
know." 

The footpath we had been following now led over a stile 
into a narrow lane or byway. Very soon we came to a 
high stone wall wherein was set a small wicket. Through 
this she led me, and we entered a broad park where was 
an avenue of fine old trees, beyond which I saw the gables 
of a house, for the stars had long since paled to the dawn, 
and there was a glory in the east. 

" Your father will be rejoiced to have you safe back 
again," said I. 

" Yes," she nodded, " but he will be very angry." And, 
hereupon, she stopped and began to pull, and twist, and 
pat her shining hair with dexterous white fingers, talking 
thus the while: 



Lovers' Meetings 125 

" My mother died at my birth, and since then father 
has worshipped her memory, and his face always grows 
wonderfully gentle when he looks upon her portrait. They 
say I 'm greatly like her — though she was a famous 
beauty in her day. And, indeed, I think there must be 
some truth in it, for, no matter how I may put him out, 
my father can never be very angry when my hair is 
dressed so." 

With the word, she turned, and truly, I thought the 
face peeping out from its clustered curls even more lovely 
and bewitching than before. 

" I very much doubt if any man could," said I. 

As we approached the house, I saw that the smooth 
gravel was much cut up as though by the coming and 
going of many wheels and horses, and also that one of the 
windows still shone with a bright light, and it was towards 
this window that my companion led me. In a while, having 
climbed the terrace steps, I noticed that this was one of 
those French windows opening to the ground. Now, look- 
ing through into the room beyond, I beheld an old man 
who sat bowed down at a table, with his white head pil- 
lowed upon his arms, sitting so very still that he might 
have been asleep but for the fierce grip of his twitching 
hands. Now, upon the table, at no great distance from 
him, between the guttering candles, lay a hat — a very 
ill-used, battered-looking object — which I thought I rec- 
ognized; wherefore, looking about, I presently espied its 
owner leaning against the mantel. He was powdered with 
dust from head to foot, and his worn garments looked 
more ragged than ever; and, as he stood there, in the 
droop of his head and the listless set of his shoulders, 
there was an air of the most utter dejection and hopeless- 
ness, while upon his thin cheek I saw the glisten of a great, 
solitary tear. But, as I looked, the window was burst 
suddenly open: 

" Perry ! " 

Love, surprise, joy, pity — all were summed up in that 
one short word — yet deeper than all was love. And, at 



126 The Broad Highway 

that cry, the white head was raised, raised in time to see 
a vision of loveliness caught up in two ragged arms. 

"Father!" 

And now the three heads — the white, the golden, and 
the black — were drawn down together, drawn, and held 
close in an embrace that was indeed reunion. 

Then, seeing my presence was become wholly unneces- 
sary, I turned away, and was soon once more deep among 
the trees. Yet, as I went, I suddenly heard voices that 
called upon my name, but I kept on, and, in due season, 
came out upon the broad highway. 

And, in a little, as I went, very full of thought, the sun 
rose up. So I walked along through a world all glorious 
with morning. 



CHAPTER XXII 

IN WHICH I MEET WITH A LITEEABY TINKER 

Even in that drowsy, semi-conscious state, that most de- 
lightful borderland which lies midway between sleeping 
and waking, I knew it could not be the woodpecker who, 
as I judged from sundry manifest signs, lodged in the 
tree above me. No woodpecker that ever pecked could 
originate such sounds as these — two quick, light strokes, 
followed by another, and heavier, thus : Tap, tap — TAP ; 
a pause, and then, tap, tap — TAP again, and so on. 

Whatever doubts I may have yet harbored on the sub- 
ject, however, were presently dispelled by a fragrance 
sweeter, to the nostrils of a hungry man, than the breath 
of flowers, the spices of the East, or all the vaunted per- 
fumes of Arabia — in a word, the odor of frying bacon. 

Hereupon, I suddenly realized how exceedingly keen was 
my appetite, and sighed, bethinking me that I must first find 
a tavern before I could satisfy my craving, when a voice 
reached me from no great distance, a full, rich, sonorous 
voice, singing a song. And the words of the song were these : 

" A tinker I am, O a tinker am I, 
A tinker I '11 live, and a tinker I'll die; 
If the King in his crown would change places wi' me 
I 'd laugh so I would, and I 'd say unto he: 
' A tinker I am, O a tinker am I, 
A tinker I '11 live, and a tinker I'll die.'" 

It was a quaint air, with a shake at the end of the first 
two and last two lines, which, altogether, I thought very} 
pleasing. I advanced, guided by the voice, until I came out 
into a grassy lane. Seated upon an artfully-contrived 
folding stool, was a man. He was a very small man de^ 



128 The Broad Highway 

spite his great voice, who held a kettle between his knees, 
and a light hammer in his hand, while a little to one side 
of him there blazed a crackling fire of twigs upon which 
a hissing frying-pan was balanced. But what chiefly drew 
and held my attention was the man's face; narrow and 
peaked, with little, round, twinkling eyes set deep in his head, 
close black hair, grizzled at the temples, and a long, blue chin. 

And presently, as I stood staring at him, he finished 
his song, and chancing to raise his eyes stared back at me. 

" Good morning ! " said he at last, with a bright nod. 

" So then you did n't cut your throat in the Hollow Oak, 
after all? " said I. 

" Nor likely to either, master," he answered, shaking 
his head. " Lord love your eyes and limbs, no ! " 

" But," said I, " some day or so ago I met a man " 

" Ah! " nodded the Tinker, " to be sure you did." 

" A pedler of brooms, and ribands — " 

" ' Gabbing ' Dick! " nodded the Tinker. 

" Who told me very seriously " 

" That I 'd been found in the big holler oak wi* my 
throat cut," nodded the Tinker. 

" But what did he mean by it? " 

" Why, y' see," explained the Tinker, leaning over to 
turn a frizzling bacon-rasher very dexterously with the 
blade of a jack-knife, " y' see, ' Gabbing ' Dick is oncom- 
mon fond of murders, hangings, sooicides, and such like — 
it 's just a way he 's got." 

" A very unpleasant way ! " said I. 

" But very harmless when all 's done and said," added 
the Tinker. 

"You mean?" 

" A leetle weak up here," explained the Tinker, tapping 
his forehead with the handle of the j ack-knif e. " His father 
was murdered the day afore he were born, d' ye see, which 
druv his poor mother out of her mind, which conditions 
is apt to make a man a leetle strange." 

" Poor fellow ! " said I, while the Tinker began his tap- 
tapping again. 



I Meet with a Literary Tinker 129 

"Are you hungry?" he inquired suddenly, glancing 
up at me with his hammer poised. 

" Very hungry ! " said I. Hereupon he set down his 
hammer, and, turning to a pack at his side, proceeded to 
extract therefrom a loaf of bread, a small tin of butter, 
and a piece of bacon, from which last he cut sundry slices 
with the jack-knife. He now lifted the hissing rashers 
from the pan to a tin plate, which he set upon the grass 
at my feet, together with the bread and the butter ; and, 
having produced a somewhat battered knife and fork, 
handed them to me with another bright nod. 

" You are very kind ! " said I. 

" Why, I 'm a man as is fond o' company, y' see — es- 
pecially of one who can think, and talk, and you have the 
face of both. I am — as you might say — a literary cove, 
being fond o' books, nov-els, and such like." And in a little 
while, the bacon being done to his liking, we sat down to- 
gether, and began to eat. 

" That was a strange song of yours," said I, after a 
while. 

" Did you like it ? " he inquired, with a quick tilt of his 
head. 

" Both words and tune," I answered. 

" I made the words myself," said the Tinker. 

" And do you mean it ? " 

" Mean what? " asked the Tinker. 

" That you would rather be a tinker than a king? " 

" Why, to be sure I would," he rejoined. " Bein' a 
literary cove I know summat o' history, and a king's life 
were n't all lavender — not by no manner o' means, nor 
yet a bed o' roses." 

" Yet there 's much to be said for a king." 

" Very little, I think," said the Tinker. 

" A king has great advantages." 

" Which he generally abuses," said the Tinker. 

" There have been some great and noble kings." 

" But a great many more bad 'uns ! " said the Tinker. 
" And then, look how often they got theirselves pisoned, 



130 The Broad Highway 

or stabbed, or 'ad their 'eads chopped off ! No — if you 
axes me, I prefer to tinker a kettle under a hedge." 

" Then you are contented? " 

" Not quite," he answered, his face falling ; " me being 
a literary cove (as I think I Ve mentioned afore), it has 
always been my wish to be a scholar." 

" Far better be a tinker," said I. 

" Young fellow," said the Tinker, shaking his head re- 
provingly, " you 're off the mark there — knowledge is 
power ; why, Lord love my eyes and limbs ! what 's finer 
than to be able to read in the Greek and Latin? " 

" To possess the capacity of earning an honest liveli- 
hood," said I. 

" Why, I tell you," continued the Tinker, unheeding 
my remark, " I 'd give this here left hand o' mine to be 
able to read the very words of such men as Plato, Aristotle, 
Epictetus, Xenophon, and all the rest of 'em." 

" There are numerous translations," said I. 

" Ah, to be sure ! " sighed the Tinker, " but then, they 
are translations." 

" There are good translations as well as bad," said I. 

" Maybe," returned the Tinker, " maybe, but a trans- 
lation 's only a echo, after all, however good it be." As 
he spoke, he dived into his pack and brought forth a book, 
which he handed to me. It was a smallish volume in bat- 
tered leathern covers, and had evidently seen much long 
and hard service. Opening it at the title-page, I read: 

Epictetus 
his 

ENCHIRIDION 

with 

Simplicius 

his 

COMMENT. 

Made English from the Greek 

By 

George Stanhope, late Fellow 

Of King's College in Camb. 

LONDON 

Printed for Richard Sare at Gray's Inn Gate in Holborn 
and Joseph Hindmarsh against the Exchange in Cornhill. 
1694. 



I Meet with a Literary Tinker 131 

" You 've read Epictetus, perhaps?" inquired the Tinker. 

" I have." 

" Not in the Greek, of course." 

" Yes," said I, smiling, " though by dint of much labor." 

The Tinker stopped chewing to stare at me wide-eyed, 
then swallowed his mouthful at one gulp. 

" Lord love me ! " he exclaimed, " and you so young, too ! " 

" No," said I ; " I J m twenty-five." 

" And Latin, now — don't tell me you can read the 
Latin." 

" But I can't make a kettle, or even mend one, for that 
matter," said L 

" But you are a scholar, and it 's a fine thing to be a 
scholar ! " 

" And I tell you again, it is better to be a tinker," 
said I. 

"How so?" 

" It is a healthier life, in the first place," said I. 

" That, I can believe," nodded the Tinker. 

" It is a happier life, in the second place." 

" That, I doubt," returned the Tinker. 

" And, in the third place, it pays much better." 

" That, I don't believe," said the Tinker. 

" Nevertheless," said I, " speaking for myself, I have, in 
the course of my twenty-five years, earned but ten shillings, 
and that — but by the sale of my waistcoat." 

u Lord love me ! " exclaimed the Tinker^ staring. 

" A man," I pursued, " may be a far better scholar than 
I — may be full of the wisdom of the Ancients, and the 
teachings of all the great thinkers and philosophers, and 
yet starve to death — indeed frequently does ; but who 
ever heard of a starving Tinker ? " 

" But a scholar may write great books," said the Tinker. 

" A scholar rarely writes a great book," said I, shaking 
my head, " probably for the good and sufficient reason 
that great books never are written." 

" Young fellow," said the Tinker, staring, " what do 
you mean by that? " 



132 The Broad Highway 

" I mean that truly great books only happen, and very 
rarely." 

" But a scholar may happen to write a great book," 
said the Tinker. 

" To be sure — he may ; a book that nobody will risk 
publishing, and if so — a book that nobody will trouble 
to read, nowadays." 

"Why so?" 

" Because this is an eminently unliterary age, incapable 
of thought, and therefore seeking to be amused. Whereas 
the writing of books was once a painful art, it has of late 
become a trick very easy of accomplishment, requiring no 
regard for probability, and little thought, so long as it 
is packed sufficiently full of impossible incidents through 
which a ridiculous heroine and a more absurd hero duly 
sigh their appointed way to the last chapter. Whereas 
books were once a power, the} 7 are, of late, degenerated 
into things of amusement with which to kill an idle hour, 
and be promptly forgotten the next." 

" Yet the great books remain," said the Tinker. 

" Yes," said I ; " but who troubles their head over Homer 
or Virgil these days — who cares to open Steele's ' Tatler,' 
or Addison's 6 Spectator,' while there is the latest novel to 
be had, or ' Bell's Life ' to be found on any coffee-house 
table?" 

" And why," said the Tinker, looking at me over a piece 
of bacon skewered upon the point of his jack-knife, " why 
don't you write a book? " 

" I probably shall some day," I answered. 

" And supposing," said the Tinker, eyeing the piece of 
bacon thoughtfully, " supposing nobody ever reads it? " 

" The worse for them ! " said I. 

Thus we talked of books, and the making of books 
(something of which I have already set down in another 
place) until our meal was at an end. 

" You are a rather strange young man, I think," said 
the Tinker, as, having duly wiped knife, and fork, and 
plate upon a handful of grass, I handed them back. 



I Meet with a Literary Tinker 133 

" Yet you are a stranger tinker." 

"How so?" 

" Why, who ever heard of a tinker who wrote verses, 
and worked with a copy of Epictetus at his elbow? " 

" Which I don't deny as I 'm a great thinker," nodded 
the Tinker ; " to be sure, I think a powerful lot." 

" A dangerous habit," said I, shaking my head, " and 
a most unwise one ! " 

" Eh? " cried the Tinker, staring. 

" Your serious, thinking man," I explained, " is seldom 
happy — as a rule has few friends, being generally re- 
garded askance, and is always misunderstood by his fel- 
lows. All the world's great thinkers, from Christ down, 
were generally misunderstood, looked at askance, and had 
very few friends." 

66 But these were all great men," said the Tinker. 

" We think so now, but in their day they were very 
much despised, and who was more hated, by the very people 
He sought to aid, than Christ? " 

" By the evil-doers, yes," nodded the Tinker. 

" On the contrary," said I, " his worst enemies were men 
of learning, good citizens, and patterns of morality, who 
looked upon him as a dangerous zealot, threatening the 
destruction of the old order of things ; hence they killed 
him — as an agitator. Things are much the same to-day. 
History tells us that Christ, or the spirit of Christ, has 
entered into many men who have striven to enlighten and 
better the conditions of their kind, and they have generally 
met with violent deaths, for Humanity is very gross and 
blind." 

The Tinker slowly wiped his clasp-knife upon the leg 
of his breeches, closed it, and slipped it into his pocket. 

" Nevertheless," said he at last, " I am convinced that 
you are a very strange young man." 

i; Be that as it may," said I, " the bacon was delicious. 
I have never enjoyed a meal so much — except once at an 
inn called ' The Old Cock.' " 

" I know it," nodded the Tinker ; " a very poor house." 



134 The Broad Highway 

" But the ham and eggs are beyond praise," said I ; 
" still, my meal here under the trees with you will long 
remain a pleasant memory." 

" Good4>y, then," said the Tinker. " Good-by, young 
man, and I wish you happiness." 

"What is happiness?" said I. The Tinker removed 
his hat, and, having scratched his head, put it on again. 

" Happiness," said he, " happiness is the state of being 
content with one's self, the world, and everything in 
general." 

" Then," said I, " I fear I can never be happy." 

"And why not?" 

" Because, supposing I ever became contented with the 
world, and everything in general, which is highly improb- 
able, I shall never, never be contented with myself." 



CHAPTER XXXII 

CONCERNING HAPPINESS, A PLOUGHMAN, AND SILVER 
BUTTONS 

Now as I went, pondering on true happiness, and the na- 
ture of it, I beheld a man ploughing in a field hard by, and, 
as he ploughed, he whistled lustily. And drawing near 
to the field, I sat down upon a gate and watched, for there 
are few sights and sounds I am fonder of than the gleam 
of the ploughshare and the sighing whisper it makes as it 
turns the fragrant loam. 

" A truly noble occupation ! " said I to myself, " digni- 
fied by the ages — ay — old, well nigh, as the green earth 
itself; no man need be ashamed to guide a plough." 

And indeed a fine sight it made, the straining horses, 
the stalwart figure of the Ploughman, with the blue sky, 
the long, brown furrows, and, away and beyond, the tender 
green of leaves; while the jingle of the harness, the clear, 
merry, whistled notes, and the song of a skylark, high 
above our heads, all blended into a chorus it was good to 
hear. 

As he came up to where I sat upon the gate, the Plough- 
man stopped, and, wiping the glistening moisture from 
his brow, nodded good-humoredly. 

" A fine morning ! " said I. 

"So it be, sir, now you come to mention it, it do be a 
fine day sure-ly." 

" You, at least seem happy," said I. 

" Happy ? " he exclaimed, staring. 

" Yes," said I. ' 



136 The Broad Highway 



" Well, I bean't." 

" And why not? " The Ploughman scratched his ear, 
and carried his glance from my face up to the sky, and 
down again. 

" I dunno," he answered, " but I bean't." 

" Yet you whistle gayly enough." 

" Why, a man must do summat." 

" Then, you seem strong and healthy." 

" Yes, I do be fine an' hearty." 

"And sleep well?" 

" Like a blessed log." 

"And eat well?" 

" Eat ! " he exclaimed, with a mighty laugh. " Lord ! 
I should think so — why, I 'm always eatin' or thinkin' 
of it. Oh, I 'm a fine eater, I am — an' I bean't no chicken 
at drinkin', neither." 

" Then you ought to be happy." 

" Ah ! — but I bean't ! " he repeated, shaking his head. 

" Have you any troubles ? " 

" None as I can think on." 

" You earn good money every week? " 

" Ten shillin'." 

" You are not married ? " 

" Not me." 

" Then," said I, " you must be happy." The Plough- 
man pulled at his ear again, looked slowly all round the 
field, and, finally, shook his head. 

" Well," said he, " I bean't." 

" But why not ? " His eye roved slowly up from my 
boots to the buttons on my coat. 

" Them be fine buttons ! " said he. 

"Do you think so?" 

"Look like silver!" 

" They are silver," said I. 

" Lord ! " he exclaimed, " you would n't part wi* they 
buttons, I suppose?" 

"That depends!" 

"On what?" 



A Ploughman and Silver Buttons 137 

" On how much you would give for them." The Plough- 
man thrust a hand into a deep pocket, and brought up five 
shillings. 

" I were a-goin' to buy a pair o' boots, on my way 'ome," 
he explained, " but I 'd rayther 'ave they buttons, if five 
shillin' '11 buy 'em." 

" The boots would be more serviceable," said I. 

" Maybe, sir, but then, everybody wears boots, but there 
bean't many as can show buttons the like o' them — so if 
you 're willin' " 

" Lend me your knife," said I. And, forthwith, I sawed 
off the eight silver buttons and dropped them into his 
palm, whereupon he handed me the money with great 
alacrity. 

" And now," said I, " tell me why you are not happy." 

" Well," returned the Ploughman, back at his ear again, 
" ye see it bein' as you ask so sudden-like, I can't 'zack'ly 
say, but if you was to pass by in a day or two, why, maybe 
I could tell ye." 

So, pocketing the buttons, he whooped cheerily to his 
horses, and plodded off, whistling more merrily than ever. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

WHICH INTRODUCES THE READER TO THE ANCIENT 

The sun was high when I came to a place where the ways 
divided, and, while I stood hesitating which road to take, 
I heard the cool plash and murmur of a brook at no great 
distance. Wherefore, being hot and thirsty, I scrambled 
through the hedge, and, coming to the brook, threw myself 
face down beside it, and, catching up the sweet pure water 
in my hands, drank my fill ; which done, I bathed my feet, 
and hands, and face, and became much heartened and re- 
freshed thereby. Now because I have ever loved the noise 
of running waters, in a little while, I rose and walked on 
beside the stream, listening to its blithesome melody. So, 
by devious ways, for the brook wound prodigiously, I came 
at length to a sudden declivity down which the water 
plunged in a miniature cascade, sparkling in the sun, and 
gleaming with a thousand rainbow hues. On I went, climb- 
ing down as best I might, until I found myself in a sort of 
green basin, very cool after the heat and glare of the 
roads, for the high, tree-clad sides afforded much shade. 
On I went, past fragrant thickets and bending willows, with 
soft lush grass underfoot and leafy arches overhead, and 
the brook singing and chattering at my side; albeit a 
brook of changeful mood, now laughing and dimpling in 
some fugitive ray of sunshine, now sighing and whispering 
in the shadows, but ever moving upon its appointed way, 
and never quite silent. So I walked on beside the brook, 
watching the fish that showed like darting shadows on the 
bottom, until, chancing to raise my eyes, I stopped. And 
there, screened by leaves, shut in among the green, stood a 



Introduces Reader to the Ancient 139 

small cottage, or hut. My second glance showed it to be 
tenantless, for the thatch was partly gone, the windows 
were broken, and the door had long since fallen from its 
hinges. Yet, despite its forlornness and desolation, de- 
spite the dilapidation of broken door and fallen chimney, 
there was something in the air of the place that drew me 
strangely. It was somewhat roughly put together, but 
still very strong, and seemed, save for the roof, weather- 
fast. 

" A man might do worse than live here," thought I, 
" with the birds for neighbors, and the brook to sing him 
to sleep at night. Indeed, a man might live very happily in 
such a place. 5 ' 

I was still looking at the hut, with this in my mind, 
when I was startled by hearing a thin, quavering voice 
behind me : 

" Be you 'm a-lookin' at t' cottage, master ? " 

Turning sharp round, I beheld a very ancient man in a 
smock frock, who carried a basket on one arm, and leaned 
upon a stick. 

"Yes," I answered; "I was wondering how it came 
to be built in such an out-of-the-world spot." 

" Why, 't were built by a wanderin' man o' the roads." 

" It 's very lonely ! " said I. 

" Ye may well say so, sir — haunted it be, tu." 

"Haunted?" said I. 

" Haunted as ever was ! " answered the old man, with 
a sprightly nod strangely contrasting with his wrinkled 
face and tremulous limbs. " No one ventur's nigh the 
place arter dark, an' few enough in the daytime, for 
that matter." 

" On account of the ghost? " 

" Ah 1 " nodded the Ancient, " moans 'e du, an' likewise 
groans. Theer 's some as says 'e twitters tu, an' shakes 
chains." 

" Then nobody has lived here of late ? " 

" Bless 'ee no — nor would n't, no, not if ye paid 'em tu. 
Nobody 's come a-nigh the place, you may say, since 



140 The Broad Highway 

't were built by the wanderin' man. Lived 'ere all alone, 'e 
did — killed 'isself 'ere likewise." 

"Killed himself!" said L 

" Ah — ! 'iing 'isself — - be'ind th' door yonder, sixty 
an' six year ago come August, an' 't were me as found 'im. 
Ye see," said the old man, setting down his basket, and 
seating himself with great nicety on the moss-grown door- 
step, " ye see, 't were a tur'ble storm that night — rain, 
and wind, wi' every now an' then a gert, cracklin' flame o' 
lightnin'. I mind I 'd been up to th' farm a-courtin' o' 
Nancy Brent — she 'm dead now, poor lass, years an' 
years ago, but she were a fine, buxom maid in those days, 
d' ye see. Well, I were comin' 'ome, and what wi' one thing 
an' another, I lost my way. An' presently, as I were 
stumblin' along in the dark, comes another crackle o' light- 
nin', an' lookin' up, what should I see but this 'ere cottage. 
'T were newer-lookin' then, wi' a door an' winders, but the 
door was shut an' the winders was dark — so theer I 
stood in the rain, not likin' to disturb the stranger, for 'e 
were a gert, fierce, unfriendly kind o' chap, an' uncommon 
fond o' bein' left alone. Hows'ever, arter a while, up I 
goes to th' door, an' knocks (for I were a gert, strong, 
strappin', well-lookin' figure o' a man myself, in those 
days, d' ye see, an' could give a good buffet an' tak one tu), 
so up I goes to th' door, an' knocks wi' my fist clenched, all 
ready (an' a tidy, sizable fist it were in those days) — 
but Lord ! nobody answered, so, at last, I lifted the latch." 
Here the Ancient paused to draw a snuff-box from his 
pocket, with great deliberation, noting my awakened in- 
terest with a twinkling eye. 

"Well?" I inquired. 

"Well," he continued slowly, "I lifted th' latch, an' 
give a push to the door, but it would only open a little way 
— an inch, p'r'aps, an' stuck." Here he tapped, and 
opened his snuff-box. 

" Well ? " I inquired again. 

" Well," he went on, " I give it a gert, big push wi' my 
shoulder (I were a fine, strong chap in those days), an', 



Introduces Reader to the Ancient 141 

just as it flew open, comes another flash o' lightnin', an' the 
fust thing I seen was — a boot." 

" A boot ! " I exclaimed. 

" A boot as ever was," nodded the Ancient, and took a 
pinch of snuff with great apparent gusto. 

" Go on," said I, " go on." 

" Oh ! — it 's a fine story, a fine story ! " he chuckled. 
" Theer bean't many men o' my age as 'as fund a 'ung man 
in a thunderstorm ! Well, as I tell ye, I seen a boot, like- 
wise a leg, an' theer were this 'ere wanderin' man o' the 
roads a-danglin' be'ind th' door from a stapil — look ye ! " 
he exclaimed, rising with some little difficulty, and hobbling 
into the hut, " theer be th' very stapil, so it be ! " and he 
pointed up to a rusty iron staple that had been driven 
deep into the beam above the door. 

" And why," said I, " why did he hang himself? " 

" Seein' e' 'ad no friends, and never told nobody — no- 
body never knowed," answered the old man, shaking his 
head, " but on that theer stapil 'e 'ung 'isself, an' on that 
theer stapil I fund 'im, on a stormy night sixty and six 
year ago come August." 

" You have a wonderful memory ! " said I. 

" Ay, to be sure ; a wunnerf ul mem'ry, a wunnerful 
mem'ry ! " 

" Sixty and six years is an age," said I. 

" So it be," nodded the Ancient. " I were a fine young 
chap in those days, tall I were, an' straight as a arrer. 
I be a bit different now." 

" Why, you are getting old," said I. 

" So 's t' stapil yonder, but t' stapil looks nigh as good 
as ever." 

" Iron generally wears better than flesh and blood," 
said I; "it 's only natural." 

" Ay, but 'e can't last forever," said the Ancient, frown- 
ing, and shaking his head at the rusty staple. " I 've 
watched un, month in an' month out, all these years, an' 
seen un growin' rustier an' rustier. ' I '11 last 'ee out yet,' 
I 've said tu un — 'e knows it — 'e 've heerd me many 



142 The Broad Highway 

an 5 many a time. * I '11 last 'ee out yet ! ' I 've said, an' so 
I will, tu : — 'e can't last forever an' I be a vig'rus man — ■ 
a mortal vig'rus man — bean't I? " 

"Wonderfully!" said I. 

" An' so strong as a bull? " 

" To be sure." 

" An' t' stapil can't last much longer — eh, maister? — 
so old an' rusty as 'e be? " 

" One would hardly think so." 

" Not so long as a tur'ble vig'rus man, like I be? " he 
inquired, with a certain wistful appeal in his eyes. 

" No," I answered impulsively. 

" I knowed it — I knowed it," he chuckled, feebly 
brandishing his stick, " such a poor old stapil as 't is, all 
eat up wi' rust. Every time I come 'ere a-gatherin' water- 
cress, I come in an' give un a look, an' watch un rustin' 
away, an' rustin' away ; I '11 see un go fust, arter all, so 
I will ! " and, with another nod at the staple, he turned, and 
hobbled out into the sunshine. 

And seeing how, despite his brave showing, he labored 
to carry the heavy basket, I presently took it from him, 
disregarding his protests, and set off by his side; yet, as 
we went, I turned once to look back at the deserted hut. 

" You 'm thinkin' 'tis a tur'ble bad place at night?" 
said the old man. 

" On the contrary," I answered, " I was thinking it 
might suit a homeless man like me very well indeed." 

"D'ye mean — to live there?" exclaimed the Ancient. 

" Yes," said I. 

" Then you bean't afraid o' the ghost ? " 

" No," I answered. 

" P'r'aps you be one o' they fules as think theer bean't 
no ghosts? " 

" As to that," I answered, " I don't know, but I don't 
think I should be much afraid, and it is a great blessing to 
have some spot on this unfriendly world that we can call 
* home ' — even though it be but a hut, and haunted." 

In a little while the path we followed led up a some- 



Introduces Reader to the Ancient 143 

what steep ascent which, though not so precipitous as 
the place where I had entered the hollow, was a difficult 
climb, notwithstanding; seeing which, I put out a hand 
to aid my aged companion. But he repulsed me almos't 
sharply : 

" Let be," he panted, " let be, nobody 's never 'elped 
me up this 'ere path, an' nobody never shall ! " So up we 
went, the Ancient and I, side by side, and very slowly, 
until, the summit being reached, he seated himself, spent 
and breathless, upon a fallen tree, which had doubtless 
served this purpose many times before, and mopped at his 
wrinkled brow with a trembling hand. 

" Ye see," he cried, as soon as he had recovered his 
breath sufficiently, " ye see, I be wunnerful spry an' active 
— could dance ye a hornpipe any day, if I was so minded." 

" On my word," said I, " I believe you could ! But where 
are you going now? " 

"To Siss'n'urst!" 

"How far is that?" 

" 'Bout a mile acrost t' fields, you can see the pint o' 
Joel Amos's oast-'ouse above the trees yonder." 

" Is there a good inn at Sissinghurst? " 

" Ay, theer 's 4 The Bull,' comfortable, an' draws fine 
ale!" 

" Then I will go to Sissinghurst." 

" Ay, ay," nodded the old man, " if it be good ale an' 
a comfortable inn you want you need seek no further nor 
Siss'n'urst ; ninety an' one years I 've lived there, an' I 
know." 

" Ninety-one years ! " I repeated. 

" As ever was ! " returned the Ancient, with another 
nod. "I be the oldest man in these parts 'cept David Relf, 
an' 'e died last year." 

" Why then, if he 's dead, you must be the oldest," 
said I. 

" No," said the Ancient, shaking his head, " ye see it 
be this way : David were my brother, an' uncommon proud 
'e were o' bein' the oldest man in these parts, an' now 



144 The Broad Highway 

that 'e be dead an' gone it du seem a poor thing — ah ! a 
very poor thing ! — to tak' 'vantage of a dead man, an' 
him my own brother ! " Saying which, the Ancient rose, 
and we went on together, side by side, towards Sissinghurst 
village. 



CHAPTER XXV 

OF BLACK GEORGE, THE SMITH, AND HOW WE 
THREW THE HAMMER 

" The Bull " is a plain, square, whitewashed building, 
with a sloping roof, and before the door an open portico, 
wherein are set two seats on which one may sit of a 
sunny afternoon with a mug of ale at one's elbow and 
watch the winding road, the thatched cottages bowered in 
roses, or the quiver of distant trees where the red, conical 
roof of some oast-house makes a vivid note of color amid 
the green. Or one may close one's eyes and hark to the 
chirp of the swallows under the eaves, the distant lowing 
of cows, or the clink of hammers from the smithy across 
the way. 

And presently, as we sat there drowsing in the sun, to 
us came one from the " tap," a bullet-headed fellow, small 
of eye, and nose, but great of jaw, albeit he was become 
somewhat fat and fleshy — who, having nodded to me, sat 
him down beside the Ancient, and addressed him as 
follows : 

" Black Jarge be ' took ' again, Gaffer ! " 

" Ah ! I knowed 't would come soon or late, Simon," said 
the Ancient, shaking his head, " I knowed as 'e 'd never last 
the month out." 

" Seemed goin' on all quiet and reg'lar, though," said 
the bullet-headed man, whom I discovered to be the land- 
lord of " The Bull " — " seemed nice and quiet, and nothin' 
out o' the way, when, 'bout an hour ago it were, 'e ups and 
heaves Sam out into the road." 



146 The Broad Highway 

" Ah ! " said the old man, nodding his head again, »" to 
be sure, I 've noticed, Simon, as 't is generally about the 
twentieth o' the month as Jarge gets * took.' " 

" 'E 've got a wonderful 'ead, 'ave the Gaffer ! " said 
Simon, turning to me. 

" Yes," said I, " but who is Black George ; how comes 
he to be ' taken,' and by what ? " 

" Gaffer," said the Innkeeper, " you tell un." 

" Why, then," began the Ancient, nothing loth, " Black 
Jarge be a gert, big, strong man — the biggest, gertest, 
and strongest in the South Country, d' ye see (a'most as 
fine a man as I were in my time), and, off and on, gets took 
wi' tearin's and rages, at which times 'e don't mind who 



" No — nor wheer ! " added the Innkeeper. 

" Oh, 'e be a bad man, be Black Jarge when 'e 's took, 
for 'e 'ave a knack, d' ye see, of takin' 'old o' the one 
nighest to un, and a-heavin' of un over 'is 'ead. 5 ' 

" Extremely unpleasant ! " said I. 

" Just what he done this marnin' wi' Sam," nodded the 
Innkeeper — " hove un out into the road, 'e did." 

" And what did Sam do ? " I inquired. 

" Oh ! Sam were mighty glad to get off so easy." 

" Sam must be a very remarkable fellow — undoubt- 
edly a philosopher," said I. 

" 'E be nowt to look at ! " said the Ancient. 

Now at this moment there came a sudden deep bellow, a 
hoarse, bull-like roar from somewhere near by, and, looking 
round in some perplexity, through the wide doorway of 
the smithy opposite, I saw a man come tumbling, all arms 
and legs, who, having described a somersault, fell, rolled 
over once or twice, and sitting up in the middle of the 
road, stared about him in a dazed sort of fashion. 

" That 's Job ! " nodded the Ancient. 

" Poor fellow ! " said I, and rose to go to his assistance. 

" Oh, that were n't nothin'," said the Ancient, laying a 
restraining hand upon my arm, " nothin' at all. Job 
bean't 'urt ; why, I 've seen 'em fall further nor that afore 



Black George, the Smith 147 

now, but y' see Job be pretty heavy handlin' — even for 
Black Jarge." 

And, in a little while, Job arose from where he sat in the 
dust, and limping up, sat himself down on the opposite 
bench, very black of brow and fierce of eye. And, after 
he had sat there silent for maybe five minutes, I said that 
I hoped he was n't hurt. 

" 'Urt? " he repeated, with a blank stare. " 'Ow should 
I be 'urt?" 

" Why, you seemed to fall rather heavily," said I. 

At this Job regarded me with a look half resentful, half 
reproachful, and immediately turned his back upon me; 
from which, and sundry winks and nods and shakes of the 
head from the others, it seemed that my remark had been 
ill-judged. And after we had sat silent for maybe another 
five minutes, the Ancient appeared to notice Job's presence 
for the first time. 

" Why, you bean't workin' 's arternoon then, Job? " he 
inquired solemnly. 

"Noa!" 

" Goin' to tak' a 'olleyday, p'r'aps? " 

" Ah ! I 'm done wi' smithin' — leastways, for Black 
Jarge." 

" And him wi' all that raft o' work in, Job ? Pretty 
fix 'e '11 be in wi' no one to strike for 'im ! " said Simon. 

" Sarves un right tu ! " retorted Job, furtively rubbing 
his left knee. 

" But what '11 'e do wi'out a 'elper? " persisted Simon. 

" Lord knows ! " returned the Ancient ; " unless Job 
thinks better of it." 

" Not me," said that individual, feeling his right elbow 
with tender solicitude. " I 'm done wi' Black Jarge, I 
am. 'E nigh broke my back for me once afore, but this is 
the last time; I never swing a sledge for Black Jarge 
again — danged if I du ! " 

" And 'im to mend th' owd church screen up to Cran- 
brook Church," sighed the Ancient ; " a wunnerful screen, 
a wunnerful screen ! older nor me — ah ! a sight older — 



148 The Broad Highway 

hunneds and hunneds o' years older — they would n't let 
nobody touch it but Black Jarge." 

" 'E be the best smith in the South Country ! " nodded 
Simon. 

" Ay, an' a bad man to work for as ever was ! " growled 
Job. " I '11 work for 'e no more ; my mind 's made up, an' 
when my mind 's made up theer bean't no movin' me — like 
a rock I be ! " 

" 'T would ha' been a fine thing for a Siss'n'urst man 
to ha' mended t' owd screen ! " said the Ancient. 

" 'T would that ! " nodded Simon. " a shame it is as it 
should go to others." 

Hereupon, having finished my ale, I rose. 

" Be you 'm a-goin', young maister ? " inquired the 
Ancient. 

" Why, that depends," said I. " I understand that this 
man, Black George, needs a helper, so I have decided to 
go and offer my services." 

" You ! " exclaimed Job, staring in open-mouthed 
amazement, as did also the other two. 

"Why not?" I rejoined. "Black George needs a 
helper, and I need money." 

" My chap," said Job warningly, " don't ye do it. You 
be a tidy, sizable chap, but Black Jarge ud mak' no more 
o' you than I should of a babby — don't ye do it." 

" Better not," said Simon. 

" On the contrary," I returned, "better run a little 
bodily risk and satisfy one's hunger, rather than lie safe 
but famishing beneath some hedge or rick — what do you 
think, Ancient? " 

The old man leaned forward and peered up at me 
sharply beneath his hanging brows. 

" Well? " said I. 

" You 'm right ! " he nodded, " and a man wi' eyes the 
like o' yourn bean't one as 't is easy to turn aside, even 
though it do be Black Jarge as tries." 

" Then," said Job, as I took up my staff, " if your 
back 's broke, my chap — why, don't go for to blame me, 



Black George, the Smith 149 

that 's all ! You be a sight too cocksure — ah, that you 
be!" 

" I 'm thinkin' Black Jarge would find this chap a bit 
different to Job," remarked the Ancient. " What do 'ee 
think, Simon? " 

" Looks as if 'e might take a good blow, ah ! and give 
one, for that matter," returned the Innkeeper, studying me 
with half-closed eyes, and his head to one side, as I have 
seen artists look at pictures. " He be pretty wide in the 
shoulders, and full in the chest, and, by the look of him, 
quick on 'is pins." 

" You 've been a fightin' man, Simon, and you ought to 
know — but he 've got summat better still." 

" And what might that be, Gaffer? " inquired the Inn- 
keeper. 

" A good, straight, bright eye, Simon, wi' a look in it 
as says, 4 1 will ! ' " 

" Ah! but what o' Jarge? " cried Job. " Black Jarge 
don't mind a man's eyes, 'cept to black frequent; 'e don't 
mind nothin', nor nobody." 

" Job," said the Ancient, tapping his snuff-box, 
" theer 's some things as is better nor gert, big muscles, 
and gert, strong fists — if you was n't a danged fule you 'd 
know what I mean. Young man," he went on, turning to 
me, " you puts me in mind o' what I were at your age — 
though, to be sure, I were taller 'n you by about five or 
six inches, maybe more — but don't go for to be too 
cock-sure for all that. Black Jarge are n't to be sneezed 
at." 

" And, if you must 'it un," added the Innkeeper, " why, 
go for the chin — theer are n't a better place to 'it a man 
than on the chin, if so be you can thump it right — and 
'ard enough. I mind 'twas so I put out Tom Brock o' 
Bedford — a sweet, pretty blow it were too, though I do 
say it." 

" Thank you ! " said I ; " should it come to fighting, 
which Heaven forfend, I shall certainly remember your 
advice." Saying which, I turned away, and crossed the 



150 The Broad Highway 

road to the open door of the smithy, very conscious of the 
three pairs of eyes that watched me as I went. 

Upon the threshold of the forge I paused to look about 
me, and there, sure enough, was the smith. Indeed a fine, 
big fellow he was, with great shoulders, and a mighty 
chest, and arms whose bulging muscles showed to advan- 
tage in the red glow of the fire. In his left hand he 
grasped a pair of tongs wherein was set a glowing iron 
scroll, upon which he beat with the hammer in his right. 
I stood watching until, having beaten out the glow from the 
iron, he plunged the scroll back into the fire, and fell to 
blowing with the bellows. But now, as I looked more 
closely at him, I almost doubted if this could be Black 
George, after all, for this man's hair was of a bright gold, 
and curled in tight rings upon his brow, while, instead of 
the black, scowling visage I had expected, I beheld a ruddy, 
open, well-featured face out of which looked a pair of eyes 
of a blue you may sometimes see in a summer sky at even- 
ing. And yet again, his massive size would seem to pro- 
claim him the famous Black George, and no other. It was 
with something of doubt in my mind, nevertheless, that I 
presently stepped into the smithy and accosted him. 

" Are you Black George ? " I inquired. At the sound 
of my voice, he let go the handle of the bellows, and turned ; 
as I watched, I saw his brows draw suddenly together, 
while the golden hairs of his beard seemed to curl upward. 

"Suppose I be?" 

" Then I wish to speak with you." 

" Be that what you 'm come for? " 

" Yes." 

" Be you come far ? " 

" Yes." 

" That 's a pity." 

"Why?" 

" 'Cause you '11 'ave a good way to go back again." 

" WTiat do you mean ? " 

" Well, for one thing, I means as I don't like your looks, 
my chap." 



Black George, the Smith 151 

" And why don't you like my looks ? " 

" Lord ! " exclaimed the smith, " 'ow should I know — » 
but I don't — of that I 'm sartin sure." 

" Which reminds me," said I, " of a certain unpopular 
gentleman of the name of Fell, or Pell, or Snell." 

" Eh? " said the smith, staring. 

" There is a verse, I remember, which runs, I think, in 
this wise: 

" * I do not love thee, Doctor Fell, or Pell, or Snell, 
For reasons which I cannot tell; 
But this I know, and know full well, 
I do not love thee, Doctor Fell, or Pell, or Snell. ' " 

" So you 'm a poet, eh ? " 

" No," said I, shaking my head. 

" Then I 'm sorry for it ; a man don't meet wi' poets' 
every day," saying which, he drew the scroll from the fire, 
and laid it, glowing, upon the anvil. " You was wishful to 
speak wi' me, I think? " he inquired. 

" Yes," I answered. 

" Ah ! " nodded the smith, " to be sure," and, forthwith, 
began to sing most lustily, marking the time very cleverly 
with his ponderous hand-hammer. 

" If," I began, a little put out at this, " if you will listen 

to what I have to say " But he only hammered away 

harder than ever, and roared his song the louder; and, 
though it sounded ill enough at the time, it was a song 
I came to know well later, the words of which are these: 

"Strike! ding! ding! 
Strike! ding! ding! 
The iron glows, 
And loveth good blows 
As fire doth bellows. 
Strike! ding! ding!" 

Now seeing he was determined to give me no chance to 
speak, I presently seated myself close by, and fell to sing- 
ing likewise. Oddly enough, the only thing I could recall, 
on the moment, was the Tinker's song, and that but very 
imperfectly ; yet it served my purpose well enough. Thus 



152 The Broad Highway 

we fell to it with a will, the different notes clashing, and 
filling the air with a most vile discord, and the words all 
jumbled up together, something in this wise: 

"Strike! ding! ding! 
A tinker I am, 
Strike! ding! ding! 
A tinker am I 
The iron it glows, 
A tinker I '11 live 
And loveth good blows, 
And a tinker I'll die. 
As fire doth bellows. 
If the King in his crown 
Strike! ding! ding! 
Would change places with me 
Strike! ding! ding! " And so forth. 

The louder he roared, the louder roared I, until the 
place fairly rang with the din, in so much that, chancing 
to look through the open doorway, I saw the Ancient, with 
Simon, Job, and several others, on the opposite side of the 
way, staring, open-mouthed, as well they might. But still 
the smith and I continued to howl at each other with un- 
abated vigor until he stopped, all at once, and threw down 
his hammer with a clang. 

" Dang me if I like that voice o' yourn ! " he exclaimed. 

" Why, to be sure, I don't sing very often," I answered. 

" Which, I mean to say, is a very good thing ; ah ! a 
very good thing ! " 

" Nor do I pretend to sing " 

" Then why do 'ee try now ? " 

" For company's sake." 

" Well, I don't like it; I 've 'ad enough of it." 

" Then," said I, " suppose you listen to what I have to 
say?" 

" Not by no manner o' means." 

" Then what do you propose to do? " 

" Why," said the smith, rising and stretching himself, 
" since you ax me, I 'm a-goin' to pitch you out o' yon 
door." * 

" You may try, of course," said I, measuring the dis- 



Black George, the Smith 153 

tance between us with my eye, " but if you do, seeing you 
are so much the bigger and stronger man, I shall certainly 
fetch you a knock with this staff of mine which I think you 
will remember for many a day." 

So saying, I rose and stepped out into the middle of the 
floor. Black George eyed me slowly up from the soles of 
my boots to the crown of my hat and down again, picked 
up his hammer in an undecided fashion, looked it over as 
if he had never seen such a thing before, tossed it into a 
corner, and, seating himself on the anvil, folded his arms. 
All at once a merry twinkle leapt into the blue depths of 
his eyes, and I saw the swift gleam of a smile. 

" What do 'ee want — man? " said he. 

Now hereupon, with a sudden gesture, I pitched my staff 
out through the open doorway into the road, and folded 
my arms across my chest, even as he. 

" Why did 'ee do that ? " he inquired, staring. 

" Because I don't think I shall need it, after all." 

" But suppose I was to come for 'ee now ? " 

" But you won't." 

" You be a strange sort o' chap ! " said he, shaking his- 
head. 

" So they tell me." 

" And what does the likes o' you want wi' the likes o* 
me? " 

"Work!" 

" Know anythin' about smithin' ? " 

" Not a thing." 

" Then why do 'ee come 'ere? " 

" To learn." 

" More fool you ! " said the smith. 

"Why?" 

" Because smithin' is 'ard work, and dirty work, and 
hot work, and work as is badly paid nowadays." 

" Then why are you a smith ? " 

" My feyther was a smith afore me." 

" And is that your only reason ? " 

" My only reason." 



154 The Broad Highway 

" Then you are the greater fool." 

"You think so, do ye?" 

" Certainly." 

" Supposing" said Black George, stroking his golden 
beard reflectively, " supposin' I was to get up and break 
your neck for that." 

" Then you would, at least, save me from the folly of 
becoming a smith." 

" I don't," said Black George, shaking his head, " no, 
I do not like you." 

" I am sorry for that." 

" Because," he went on, " you 've got the gift o' the 
gab, and a gabbing man is worse than a gabbing 
woman." 

" You can gab your share, if it comes to that," said I. 

" Can I? " 

" You can." 

" My chap," he growled, holding up a warning hand, 
" go easy now, go easy ; don't get me took again." 

" Not if I can help it," I returned. 

" I be a quiet soul till I gets took — a very quiet soul 
— lambs bean't quieter, but I won't answer for that neck 
o' yourn if I do get took — so look out ! * ' 

" I understand you have an important piece of work on 
hand," said I, changing the subject. 

" Th' owd church screen, yes." 

" And are in need of a helper ? " 

" Ah ! to be sure — but you are n't got the look o' a 
workin' cove. I never see a workin' cove wi' 'ands the like 
o' yourn, so white as a woman 's they be." 

" I have worked hard enough in my time, nevertheless," 
said I. 

" What might you 'ave done, now ? " 

" I have translated Petronius Arbiter, also Quintilian, 
with a literal rendering into the English of the Memoires 
of the Sieur de Brantome." 

" Oh," exclaimed the smith, " that sounds a lot ! any- 
thing more? " 



Black George, the Smith 155 

" Yes," I answered ; " I won the High Jump, and 
Throwing the Hammer." 

" Throwin' th' 'aramer ! " repeated Black George mus- 
ingly ; " was it anything like that theer? " And he pointed 
to a sledge near by. 

" Something," I answered. 

" And you want work? " 

" I do." 

" Tell 'ee what, my fellow, if you can throw that theer 
'ammer further nor me, then I '11 say, 6 Done,' and you 
can name your own wages, but if I beat you, and I 'm 
fair sure I can, then you must stand up to me for ten 
minutes, and I '11 give 'ee a good trouncin' to ease my 
mind — what d' ye say ? " 

After a momentary hesitation, I nodded my head. 

" Done ! " said I. 

" More fool you ! " grinned the smith, and, catching up 
his sledge-hammer, he strode out into the road. 

Before " The Bull " a small crowd had gathered, all 
newly come from field or farmyard, for most of them car- 
ried rake or pitchfork, having doubtless been drawn thither 
by the hellish outcry of Black George and myself. Now 
I noticed that while they listened to the Ancient, who was 
holding forth, snuff-box in hand, yet every eye was turned 
towards the smithy, and in every eye was expectation. 
At our appearance, however, I thought they seemed, one 
and all, vastly surprised and taken aback, for heads were 
shaken, and glances wandered from the smith and myself 
to the Ancient, and back again. 

" Well, I '11 be danged! " exclaimed Job. 

" I knowed it ! I knowed it ! " cried the Ancient, rub- 
bing his hands and chuckling. 

" Knowed what, Gaffer ? " inquired Black George, as 
we came up. 

" Why, I knowed as this young chap would come out 
a-walkin' 'pon his own two legs, and not like Job, a-rollm* 
and a-wallerin' in the dust o' th' road — like a hog." 

" Why, y' see, Gaffer," began the smith, almost apolo- 



156 The Broad Highway 

getically it seemed to me, " it do come sort o' nat'ral to 
lieave the likes o' Job about a bit — Job 's made for it, y' 
might say, but this chap 's different." 

" So 'e be, Jarge — so 'e be ! " nodded the Ancient. 

" Though, mark me, Gaffer, I are n't nohow in love wi' 
this chap neither — 'e gabs too much to suit me, by a long 
;sight!" 

" 'E do that ! " chimed in Job, edging nearer ; " what 
I sez is, if 'e do get 'is back broke, 'e are n't got nobody 
±0 blame but 'isself — so cocksure as 'e be." 

" Job," said the Ancient, " hold thee tongue." 

" I sez 'e 's a cocksure cove," repeated Job doggedly,. 
46 an' a cocksure cove 'e be ; what do 'ee think, Jarge ? " 

" Job," returned the smith, " I don't chuck a man into 
V road and talk wi' 'im both in the same day." 

In this conversation I bore no part, busying myself in 
drawing out a wide circle in the dust, a proceeding watched 
by the others with much interest, and not a few wondering 
comments. 

" What be goin' to du wi' 'ammer, Jarge ? " inquired 
the Ancient. 

" Why," explained the smith, " this chap thinks 'e can 
throw it further nor me." At this there was a general 
laugh. " If so be 'e can," pursued. Black George, " then 
'e comes to work for me at 'is own price, but if I beat 'im, 
then 'e must stand up to me wi' 'is fists for ten minutes." 

" Ten minutes ! " cried a voice ; " 'e won't last five ~— 
see if 'e do." 

" Feel sorry for un," said a second, " 'e do be so pale 
as a sheet a'ready." 

" So would you be if you was in 'is shoes ! " chimed in 
>a third; whereat there was a general laugh. 

Indeed, as I looked round the ring of grinning, unre- 
sponsive faces, it was plain to see that all sympathy was 
against the stranger, as is the way of bird, beast, fish, 
but especially man, the world over — and I experienced a 
:sudden sense of loneliness which was, I think, only natural. 
Yet, as I put up my hand to loose the strap of my knap- 



Black George, the Smith 157 

sack, I encountered another already there, and, turning, 
beheld Simon the Innkeeper. 

" If it do come to fightin'," he whispered close in my 
ear, " if it do come to fightin', and I 'm fair sure it will, 
keep away as much as you can; you look quick on your 
pins. Moreover, whatever you do, watch 'is right, and 
when you do see a chance to strike, go for 'is chin — a 
little to one side — and strike danged 'ard ! " 

" Many thanks for your friendly advice," said I, with 
a grateful nod and, slipping off my coat, would have 
handed it to him but that the Ancient hobbled up, and, 
taking it from me, folded it ostentatiously across his arm. 

" Mark my words, Simon," said he, " this young chap 
is as like what I were at his age as one pea is to another — * 
I says so, and I means so." 

" Come," said Black George, at this juncture, " I 've 
work waitin' to be done, and my forge fire will be out." 

" I 'm quite ready," said I, stepping forward. It was 
now arranged that, standing alternately within the circle, 
we should each have three throws — whoever should make 
the two best throws to win. 

Hereupon, the smith took his place within the circle, 
hammer in hand. 

" Wait," said I, " the advantage usually lies with the 
last thrower, it would be fairer to you were we to toss 
for it." 

" No," answered Black George, motioning the onlookers 
to stand back, " I 've got th' 'ammer, and I '11 throw first." 

Now, as probably every one knows, it is one thing to 
swing a sledge-hammer in the ordinary way but quite 
another to throw it any distance, for there is required, 
beside the bodily strength, a certain amount of knowledge, 
without which a man is necessarily handicapped. Thus, 
despite my opponent's great strength of arm, I was fairly 
sanguine of the result. 

Black George took a fresh grip upon the hammer-shaft, 
twirled it lightly above his head, swung it once, twice, 
thrice — and let it go. 



158 The Broad Highway 

With a shout, Job and two or three others ran down the 
road to mark where it had fallen, and presently returned, 
pacing out the distance. 

" Fifty-nine ! " they announced. 

" Can 'ee beat that? " inquired Black George com- 
placently. 

" I think I can," I answered as, taking up the hammer, 
I, in turn, stepped into the ring. Gripping the shaft 
firmly, I whirled it aloft, and began to swing it swifter and 
swifter, gaining greater impetus every moment, till, like 
a flash, it flew from my grasp. Panting, I watched it rise, 
rise, rise, and then plunge down to earth in a smother of 
dust. 

" 'E 've beat it ! " cried the Ancient, flourishing his 
stick excitedly. " Lord love me, 'e 've beat it ! " 

" Ay, 'e 've beat it, sure-ly," said a man who carried a 
rake that was forever getting in everybody's way. 

" An' by a goodish bit tu ! " shouted another. 

" Ah ! but Jarge are n't got 'is arm in yet," retorted a 
third ; " Jarge can do better nor that by a long sight ! " 
But now all voices were hushed as Job paced up. 

" Eighty-two ! " he announced. Black George looked 
hard at me, but, without speaking, stepped sulkily into the 
ring, moistened his palms, looked at me again, and seizing 
the hammer, began to whirl it as he had seen me. Round 
and round it went, faster and faster, till, with a sudden 
lurch, he hurled it up and away. Indeed it was a mighty 
throw! Straight and strong it flew, describing a wide 
parabola ere it thudded into the road. 

The excitement now waxed high, and many started off 
to measure the distance for themselves, shouting one to 
another as they went. As for the smith, he stood beside 
me, whistling, and I saw that the twinkle was back in his 
eyes again. 

" One hunner and twenty ! " cried half-a-dozen voices. 

" And a half," corrected Job, thrusting the hammer into 
my hand, and grinning. 

" Can 'ee beat that ? " inquired Black George again. 



Black George, the Smith 159 

" Ay, can 'ee beat that ? " echoed the crowd. 

" It was a marvellous throw ! " said I, shaking my head. 
And indeed, in my heart I knew I could never hope to 
equal, much less beat, such a mighty cast. I therefore 
decided on strategy, and, with this in mind, proceeded, in 
a leisurely fashion, once more to mark out the circle, which 
was obliterated in places, to flatten the surface underfoot, 
to roll up my sleeves, and tighten my belt; in fine, I ob- 
served all such precautions as a man might be expected to 
take before some supreme effort. 

At length, having done everything I could think of 
to impress this idea upon the onlookers, I took up the 
hammer. 

" Means to do it this time ! " cried the man with the rake, 
knocking off Job's hat in his excitement, as, with a tre- 
mendous swing, I made my second throw. There was a 
moment's breathless silence as the hammer hurtled through 
the air, then, like an echo- to its fall, came a shout of laugh- 
ter, for the distance was palpably far short of the giant 
smith's last. A moment later Job came pacing up, and 
announced : 

" Eighty-seven ! " Hereupon arose a very babel of 
voices : 

" You 've got un beat a'ready, Jarge ! " 

" Well, I knowed it from the start ! " 

" Let un alone," cried Simon, " 'e 've got another chance 
yet." 

" Much good it '11 do 'im ! " 

" Ah ! might as well give in now, and take 'is thrashin 9 
and ha' done wi' it." 

That my ruse had succeeded with the crowd was evident ; 
they — to a man — believed I had done my best, and 
already regarded me as hopelessly beaten. My chance of 
winning depended upon whether the smith, deluded into a 
like belief, should content himself with just beating my 
last throw, for, should he again exert his mighty strength 
to the uttermost, I felt that my case was indeed hopeless. 

It was with a beating heart, therefore, that I watched 



160 The Broad Highway 

fiim take his place for the last throw. His face wore a 
confident smile, but nevertheless he took up the hammer 
with such a businesslike air that my heart sank, and, feeling 
a, touch upon my arm, I was glad to turn away. 

" I be goin' to fetch a sponge and water," said Simon. 

" A sponge and water ! " 

" Ah ! Likewise some vinegar — theer 's nothin' like 
vinegar — and remember — the chin, a little to one side 
preferred." 

" So then you think I shall be beaten ? " 

" Why, I don't say that, but it 's best to be prepared, 
are n't it now? " 

And, with a friendly nod, the Innkeeper turned away. 
In that same minute there arose another shout from the 
crowd as they greeted Black George's last throw, and Job, 
striding up, announced: 

" Ninety-eight ! " 

Then, while the air still echoed with their plaudits, I 
stepped into the ring, and, catching up the hammer, swung 
it high above my head, and, at the full length of my arms, 
began to wheel it. The iron spun faster and faster till, 
setting my teeth, with the whole force of every fibre, every 
nerve, and muscle of my body, I let it fly. 

The blood was throbbing at my temples and my breath 
•coming fast as I watched its curving flight. And now all 
voices were hushed so that the ring of the iron could be 
plainly heard as it struck the hard road, and all eyes 
watched Job, as he began pacing towards us. As he drew 
nearer I could hear him counting to himself, thus: 

" Ninety-one, ninety-two, ninety-three, ninety-four, 
ninety-five, ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety- 
nine, one hundred, one hundred and one, one hundred and 
two — one hundred and two ! " 

Next moment, as it seemed to me, an inarticulate Ancient 
was desperately trying to force me into my coat, wrong 
side first, and Simon was shaking my hand. 

" You tricked me ! " cried a voice, and turning, I fountf 
Black George confronting me with clenched fists. 



Black George, the Smith 161 

" And how did I trick you ? " 

" I could ha' chucked farther nor that." 

" Then why did n't you? " 

" Because I thought you was beat. I say you tricked 
me." 

" And I tell you the match was a fair one from start 
to finish!" 

" Put up your hands ! " said the smith, advancing in a 
threatening manner. 

" No," said I, " a bargain is a bargain," and turning 
my back upon him, I fell to watching the man with the 
rake, who, not content with Job's word, was busily pacing- 
out the distance for himself. 

" Put up your hands ! " repeated Black George hoarsely, 

" For the last time, no," said I over my shoulder. 
" Strike me if you will," I went on, seeing him raise his 
fist, " I shall not defend myself, but I tell you this, Black 
George, the first blow you strike will brand you coward, 
and no honest man." 

" Coward, is it? " cried he, and, with the word, had 
seized me in a grip that crushed my flesh, and nigh swung 
me off my feet; " coward is it? " he repeated. 

" Yes," said I, " none but a coward would attack an 
unresisting man." So, for a full minute we stood thus, 
staring into each other's eyes, and once again I saw the 
hairs of his golden beard curl up, and outwards. 

What would have been the end I cannot say, but there 
came upon the stillness the sound of flying footsteps, the 
crowd was burst asunder, and a girl stood before us, a tall, 
handsome girl with raven hair, and great, flashing black 
eyes. 

"Oh! — you, Jarge, think shame on yourself — think 
shame on yourself, Black Jarge. Look ! " she cried, point- 
ing a finger at him, " look at the great, strong man — as 
is a coward ! " 

I felt the smith's grip relax, his arms dropped to his 
sides, while a deep, red glow crept up his cheeks till it was 
lost in the clustering curls of gleaming, yellow hair. 



1 62 The Broad Highway 

" Why, Prue " he began, in a strangely altered 

voice, and stopped. The fire was gone from his eyes as 
ihey rested upon her, and he made a movement as though 
lie would have reached out his hand to her, but checked 
himself. 

" Why, Prue " he said again, but choked suddenly, 

and, turning away, strode back towards his forge without 
another word. On he went, looking neither to right nor 
left, and I thought there was something infinitely woe- 
begone and pitiful in the droop of his head. 

Now as I looked from his forlorn figure to the beautiful, 
flushed face of the girl, I saw her eyes grow wonderfully 
soft and sweet, and brim over with tears. And, when Black 
George had betaken himself back to his smithy, she also 
turned, and, crossing swiftly to the inn, vanished through 
its open doorway. 

" She 've a fine sperrit, 'ave that darter o' yourn, Simon, 
a fine sperrit. Oh ! a fine sperrit as ever was ! " chuckled 
the Ancient. 

" Prue are n't afeard o' Black Jarge — never was," re- 
turned Simon ; " she can manage un — alius could ; you '11 
mind she could alius tame Black Jarge wi' a look, Gaffer." 

" Ah ! she 'm a gran'darter to be proud on, be Prue," 
nodded the Ancient, " an' proud I be tu ! " 

" What," said I, " is she your daughter, Simon? " 

" Ay, for sure." 

" And your granddaughter, Ancient? " 

" Ay, that she be, that she be." 

" Why, then, Simon must be your son." 

" Son as ever was ! " nodded the old man, " and a good- 
ish son 'e be tu — oh, I 've seen worse." 

" And now," added Simon, " come in, and you shall taste 
as fine a jug of ale as there be in all Kent." 

" Wait," said the old man, laying his hand upon my 
arm, " I 've took to you, young chap, took to you amazin' ; 
"what might your name be ? " 

" Peter," I answered. 

" A good name, a fine name," nodded the old man. 



Black George, the Smith 163 

" Peter — Simon," said he, glancing from one to the 
•other of us. " Simon — Peter ; minds me o' the disciple 
of our blessed Lord, it du ; a fine name be Peter." 

S© Peter I became to him thenceforth, and to the whole 
village. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

THEREIN I LEARN MORE CONCERNING THE GHOST 
OF THE RUINED HUT 

And after the Ancient and Simon and I had, very cred- 
itably, emptied the jug between us, I rose to depart. 

" Peter," said the Ancient, " wheer be goin'? " 

"Home! "said I. 

"And wheer be that?" 

" The cottage in the Hollow," said I. 

" What — th' 'aunted cottage? " he cried, staring. 

" Yes," I nodded ; " from what I saw of it, I think, 
with a little repairing, it might suit me very well." 

" But the ghost? " cried the old man; " have ye forgot 
the ghost?" 

" Why, I never heard of a ghost really harming any one 
yet," I answered. 

" Peter," said Simon, quietly, " I would n't be too sure 
©' that. I would n't go a-nigh the place, myself ; once is 
enough for me." 

" Simon," said I, " what do you mean by 4 once ' ? " 

Now when I asked him this, Simon breathed hard, and 
shuffled uneasily in his chair. 

" I mean, Peter, as I 've heerd un," he replied slowly. 

" Heard him! " I repeated incredulously; " you? Are 
you sure? " 

" Sure as death, Peter. I 've heerd un a-shriekin' and 
a-groanin' to 'isself, same as Gaffer 'as, and lots of others. 
Why, Lord bless 'ee ! theer be scarce a man in these parts 
but 'as 'eerd um one time or another." 






The Ghost of the Ruined Hut 165 

" Ay — I 've 'eerd un, and seen un tu ! " croaked the 
Ancient excitedly. " A gert, tall think 'e be, wi' a 'orn on 
'is 'ead, and likewise a tail ; some might ha' thought 't was 
the Wanderin' Man o' the Roads as I found 'angin' on t' 
stapil — some on 'em du, but I knowed better — I knowed 
? t were Old Nick 'isself, all flame, and brimstone, an' wi' a 
babby under 'is arm ! " 

"A baby?" I repeated. 

" A babby as ever was," nodded the Ancient. 

" And you say you have heard it too, Simon? " said I. 

" Ay," nodded the Innkeeper ; " I went down into th' 
'Oiler one evenin' — 'bout six months ago, wi' Black Jarge, 
for we 'ad a mind to knock th' owd place to pieces, and get 
rid o' the ghost that way. Well, Jarge ups wi' 'is 'ammer, 
and down comes the rotten old door wi' a crash. Jarge 'ad 
swung up 'is 'ammer for another blow when, all at once, theer 
comes a scream." Here Simon shivered involuntarily, and 
glanced uneasily over his shoulder, and round the room. 

" A scream? " said I. 

" Ah ! " nodded Simon, " but 't were worse nor that." 
Here he paused again, and looking closer at him, I was 
surprised to see that his broad, strong hands were shak- 
ing, and that his brow glistened with moisture. 

" What was it like ? " I inquired, struck by this appar- 
ent weakness in one so hardy and full of health. 

" 'T were a scream wi' a bubble in it," he answered, 
speaking with an effort, " 't were like somebody shriekin' 
out wi' 'is throat choked up wi' blood. Jarge and me 
didn't wait for no more; we run. And as we run, it 
follered, groanin' arter us till we was out upon the road, 
and then it shrieked at us from the bushes. Ecod! it do 
make me cold to talk of it, even now. Jarge left 'is best 
sledge be'ind 'im, and I my crowbar, and we never went 
back for them, nor never shall, no." Here Simon paused 
to mop the grizzled hair at his temples. " I tell 'ee, Peter, 
that place are n't fit for no man at night. If so be you 'm 
lookin' for a bed, my chap, theer 's one you can 'ave at 
'The Bull,' ready and willin'." 



1 66 The Broad Highway 

" An' gratus ! " added the Ancient, tapping his snuff- 
box. 

" Thank you," said I, " both of you, for the offer, but 
I have a strange fancy to hear, and, if possible, see this 
ghost for myself." 

" Don't 'ee du it," admonished the Ancient, " so dark 
an' lonesome as it be, don't 'ee du it, Peter." 

" Why, Ancient," said I, " it is n't that I doubt your 
word, but my mind is set on the adventure. So, if Simon 
will let me have threepenny worth of candles, and some 
bread and meat — no matter what — I '11 be off, for I 
should like to get there before dusk." 

Nodding gloomily, Simon rose and went out, whereupon 
the Ancient leaned over and laid a yellow, clawlike hand 
upon my arm. 

" Peter," said he, " Peter, I 've took to you amazin' ; 
just a few inches taller — say a couple — an' you 'd be 
the very spit o' what I were at your age — the very spit." 

" Thank you, Ancient ! " said I, laying my hand on his. 

" Now, Peter, 't would be a hi j ious thing — a very 
hijious thing if, when I come a-gatherin' watercress in the 
marnin', I should find you a-danglin ? on t' stapil, cold and 
stiff — like t' other, or lyin' a corp wi' your throat cut; 
'twould be a hijious — hijious thing, Peter, but oh! 
't would mak' a fine story in the tellin'." 

In a little while Simon returned with the candles, a 
tinder-box, and a parcel of bread and meat, for which he 
gloomily but persistently refused payment. Last of all he 
produced a small, brass-bound pistol, which he insisted on 
my taking. 

" Not as it '11 be much use again' a ghost," said he, with 
a gloomy shake of the head, " but a pistol 's a comfortable 
thing to 'ave in a lonely place — 'specially if that place be 
very dark." Which last, if something illogical, may be 
none the less true. 

So, having shaken each by the hand, I bade them good 
night, and set off along the darkening road. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

WHICH TELLS HOW AND IN WHAT MANNER I SAW 
THE GHOST 

Now, as I went, my mind was greatly exercised as to a 
feasible explanation of what I had just heard. That a 
man so old as the Ancient should " see things " I could 
readily believe, by reason of his years, for great age is 
often subject to such hallucinations, but with Simon, a 
man in the prime of his life, it was a different matter alto- 
gether. That he had been absolutely sincere in his story 
I had read in his dilating eye and the involuntary shiver 
that had passed over him while he spoke. Here indeed, 
though I scouted all idea of supernatural agency, there 
lay a mystery that piqued my curiosity not a little. 

Ghosts ! — pshaw ! What being, endowed with a reason- 
ing mind, could allow himself to think, let alone believe in 
such folly ? Ghosts — fiddle-de-dee, sir ! 

Yet here, and all at once, like an enemy from the dark, 
old stories leaped at and seized me by the throat : old tales 
of spectres grim and bloody, of goblins, and haunted 
houses from whose dim desolation strange sounds would 
come ; tales long since heard, and forgot — till now. 

Ghosts ! Why, the road was full of them ; they crowded 
upon my heels, they peered over my shoulders ; I felt them 
brush my elbows, and heard them gibbering at me from the 
shadows. 

And the sun was setting already ! 

Ghosts! And why not? "There are more things 
in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your 
philosophy." 



1 68 The Broad Highway 

Involuntarily I hastened my steps, but the sun had set 
ere I reached the Hollow. Yes, the sun had set, and the 
great basin below me was already brimful of shadows 
which, as I watched, seemed to assume shapes — vast, 
nebulous, and constantly changing — down there amid the 
purple gloom of the trees. Indeed, it looked an unholy 
place in the half light, a pit framed for murders, and the 
safe hiding of tell-tale corpses, the very haunt of horrid 
goblins and spectres, grim and ghastly. 

So evilly did the place impress me that it needed an 
effort of will ere I could bring myself to descend the pre- 
cipitous slope. Bats flitted to and fro across my path, now 
and then, emitting their sharp, needlelike note, while, from 
somewhere in the dimness beyond, an owl hooted. 

By the time I reached the cottage, it had fallen quite 
dark, here in the Hollow, though the light still lingered in 
the world above. So I took out my tinder-box, and one of 
the candles, which, after several failures, I succeeded in 
lighting, and, stepping into the cottage, began to look 
about me. 

The place was small, as I think I have before said, and 
comprised two rooms shut off from each other by a strong 
partition with a door midway. Lifting the candle, I 
glanced at the staple on which the builder of the cottage 
had choked out his life so many years ago, and, calling to 
mind the Ancient's fierce desire to outlast it, I even reached 
up my hand and gave it a shake. But, despite the rust of 
years, the iron felt as strong and rigid as ever, so that it 
seemed the old man's innocent wish must go unsatisfied 
after all. The second room appeared much the same size 
as the first, and like it in all respects, till, looking upwards, 
I noticed a square trap door in a corner, while underneath, 
against the wall, hung a rough ladder. This I proceeded 
to lift down, and mounting, cautiously lifted the trap. 
Holding the candle above my head to survey this cham- 
ber, or rather garret, the first object my eye encountered 
was a small tin pannikin, and beyond that a stone jar, or 
demijohn. Upon closer inspection I found this last to be 



How I Saw the Ghost 169 

nearly full of water quite sweet and fresh to the taste, 
which, of itself, was sufficient evidence that some one had 
been here very lately. I now observed a bundle of hay in 
one corner, which had clearly served for a bed, beside which 
were a cracked mug, a tin plate, a pair of shoes, and an 
object I took to be part of a flute or wind instrument of 
some kind. But what particularly excited my interest 
were the shoes, which had evidently seen long and hard 
service, for they were much worn, and had been roughly 
patched here and there. Very big they were, and some- 
what clumsy, thick-soled, and square of toe, and with a 
pair of enormous silver buckles. 

These evidences led me to believe that whoever had been 
here before was likely to return, and, not doubting that this 
must be he who had played the part of ghost so well, I 
determined to be ready for him. 

So, leaving all things as I found them, I descended, and, 
having closed the trap, hung up the ladder as I had 
found it. 

In the first of the rooms there was a rough fireplace built 
into one corner, and as the air struck somewhat damp and 
chill, I went out and gathered a quantity of twigs and dry 
wood, and had soon built a cheerful, crackling fire. I now 
set about collecting armfuls of dry leaves, which I piled 
against the wall for a bed. By the time this was com- 
pleted to my satisfaction, the moon was peeping above the 
treetops, filling the Hollow with far-flung shadows. 

I now lay down upon my leafy couch, and fell to watch- 
ing the fire and listening to the small, soft song of the 
brook outside. In the opposite wall was a window, the 
glass of which was long since gone, through which I could 
see a square of sky, and the glittering belt of Orion. My 
eyes wandered from this to the glow of the fire many times, 
but gradually my head grew heavier and heavier, until, at 
length, the stars became confused with the winking sparks 
upon the hearth, and the last that I remember was that 
the crackle of the fire sounded strangely like the voice of 
the Ancient croaking: 



170 The Broad Highway 

"A hijious thing, Peter, a hijious thing! " 

I must have slept for an hour, or nearer two (for the 
room was dark, save for a few glowing embers on the 
hearth, and the faint light of the stars at the window), 
when I suddenly sat bolt upright, with every tingling nerve 
straining as if to catch something which had, but that very 
moment, eluded me. I was yet wondering what this could 
be, when, from somewhere close outside the cottage, there 
rose a sudden cry — hideous and appalling — a long- 
drawn-out, bubbling scream (no other words can describe 
it), that died slowly down to a wail only to rise again 
higher and higher, till it seemed to pierce my very brain. 
Then all at once it was gone, and silence rushed in upon me 
— a silence fraught with fear and horror unimaginable. 

I lay rigid, the blood in my veins jumping with every 
throb of my heart till it seemed to shake me from head to 
foot. And then the cry began again, deep and hoarse at 
first, but rising, rising until the air thrilled with a scream 
such as no earthly lips could utter. 

Now the light at the window grew stronger and stronger, 
and, all at once, a feeble shaft of moonlight crept across the 
floor. I was watching this most welcome beam when it 
was again obscured by a something, indefinable at first, but 
which I gradually made out to be very like a human head 
peering in at me ; but, if this was so, it seemed a head hid- 
eously misshapen — and there, sure enough, rising from the 
brow, was a long, pointed horn. 

As I lay motionless, staring at this thing, my hand, by 
some most fortunate chance, encountered the pistol in my 
pocket; and, from the very depths of my soul, I poured 
benedictions upon the honest head of Simon the Innkeeper, 
for its very contact seemed to restore my benumbed facul- 
ties. With a single bound I was upon my feet, and had the 
weapon levelled at the window. 

" Speak ! " said I, " speak, or I '11 shoot." There was a 
moment of tingling suspense, and then: 

" Oh, man, dinna do that ! " said a voice. 

" Then come in and show yourself ! " 



How I Saw the Ghost 171 

Herewith the head incontinently disappeared, there was 
the sound of a heavy step, and a tall figure loomed in the 
doorway. 

" Wait ! " said I, as, fumbling about, I presently found 
tinder-box and candle, having lighted which I turned and 
beheld a man — an exceedingly tall man — clad in the 
full habit of a Scottish Highlander. By his side hung a 
long, straight, basket-hilted sword, beneath one arm he 
carried a bagpipe, while upon his head was — not a horn 
— but a Scot's bonnet with a long eagle's feather. 

" Oh, man," said he, eyeing me with a somewhat wry 
smile, "I'm juist thinkin' ye 're no' af eared o' bogles, 
whateffer ! " 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

THE HIGHLAND PIPER 

" Who are you ? " said I, in no very gentle tone. 

" Donal 's my name, sir, an' if ye had an e'e for the 
tartan, ye 'd ken I was a Stuart." 

" And what do you want here, Donald Stuart? " 

" The verra question she 'd be askin' ye'sel' — wha' gars 
ye tae come gowkin' an' spierin' aboot here at sic an hour ? " 

" It is my intention to live here, for the future," said I. 

" Hoot toot! ye '11 be no meanin' it? " 

" But I do mean it," said I. 

" Eh, man ! but ye maun ken the place is no canny, what 
wi' pixies, an' warlocks, an' kelpies, forbye — " 

" Indeed, they told me it was haunted, but I determined 
to see for myself." 

" Weel?" 

" Well, I am glad to find it haunted by nothing worse 
than a wandering Scots piper." 

The Highlander smiled his wry smile, and taking out a 
snuff-box, inhaled a pinch, regarding me the while. 

" Ye 're the first as ever stayed — after they 'd heard 
the first bit squeakie, tae find out if 'twere a real bogle 
or no." 

" But how in the world did you make such awful 
sounds ? " 

" I 'm thinkin' it 's the bit squeakie ye '11 be meanin'? * 
he inquired. 

" Yes ; how did you do it? " 

" Oh, it 's juist the pipes ! " he answered, patting them 
affectionately, " will I show ye the noo ? " 



The Highland Piper 173 

" Pray do," said I. Hereupon he set the mouthpiece to 
his lips, inflated the bag, stopped the vents with his fingers, 
and immediately the air vibrated with the bubbling scream 
I have already attempted to describe. 

" Oh, man ! " he exclaimed, laying the still groaning 
instrument gently aside, "oh, man! is it no juist 
won'erful? " 

" But what has been your object in terrifying people 
out. of their wits in this manner ? " 

" Sir, it 's a' on account o' the snuff.'' 

"Snuff!" I repeated. 

" Juist that ! " he nodded. 

" Snuff," said I again ; " what do you mean ? " 

The Piper smiled again — a slow smile, that seemingly 
dawned only to vanish again ; it was, indeed, if I may so 
express it, a grave and solemn smile, and his nearest ap- 
proach to mirth, for not once in the days which followed 
did I ever see him give vent to a laugh. I here also take 
the opportunity to say that I have greatly modified his 
speech in the writing, for it was so broad that I had much 
ado to grasp his meaning at times. 

The Piper smiled, then, and, unwinding the plaid from 
his shoulder, spread it upon the floor, and sat down. 

" Ye maun ken," he began, " that I hae muckle love for 
the snuff, an' snuff is unco expenseeve in these parts." 

"Well?" said I. 

"Ye maun ken, in the second place, that ma brither 
Alan canna' abide the snuff." 

" Your brother Alan ! " said I wondering. 

" Ma brither Alan," he nodded gravely. 

" But what of him, what has he to do with — " 

" Man, bide a wee. I 'm comin' tae that." 

" Go on, then," said I, " I 'm listening." 

" Weel, I 'd hae ye tae ken I 'm a braw, bonnie piper, 
an' ma brither Alan, he 's a bonnie piper too — no sic a 
fair graund piper as me, bein' somewhat uncertain wi' his 
* warblers,' ye ken, but a bonnie piper, whateffer. Aweel, 
mebbe a year syne, I fell in love wi' a lassie, which wad 



174 The Broad Highway 

ha' been a' richt if ma brither Alan hadna' fallen in love 
wi' her too, so that she, puir lassie, didna' ken which tae 
tak\ ' Donal,' says Alan, ' can ye no love anither lassie ; 
she can no marry the twa o' us, that 's sure ! ' ' Then, 
Alan,' says I, 'we'll juist play for her.' Which I think 
ye '11 own was a graund idee, only the lassie couldna' juist 
mak' up her mind which o' us piped the best. So the end 
of it was we agreed, ma brither Alan an' I, to pipe oor 
way through England for a year, an' the man wha came 
back wi' the maist siller should wed the lassie." 

" And a very fair proposal," said I, " but — " 

" Wheest, man ! juist here 's where we come to the snuff, 
for, look ye, every time I bought a paper o' snuff I minded 
me that ma brither Alan, not takkin' it himself, was so 
much siller tae the gude — an' — oh, man ! it used tae 
grieve me sair — till, one day, I lighted on this bit 
hoosie." 

"Well?" said I. 

"What, d'ye no see it?" 

" No, indeed," I answered. 

" Eh, man ! ma brither Alan doesna' buy the snuff, but 
he must hae a roof tae shelter him an' a bed tae lie in o' 
nights, an' pay for it too, ye ken, fourpence, or a bawbee, 
or a shillin', as the case may be, whiles here I hae baith for 
the takkin'. An', oh, man ! many 's the nicht I 've slept 
the sweeter for thinkin' o' that saxpence or shillin' that 
Alan 's a-partin' wi' for a bed little better than mine. So, 
wishfu' tae keep this bit hoosie tae mysel' — seein' 't was 
haunted as they ca' it — I juist kep' up the illusion on 
account o' trampers, wanderin' gypsies, an' sic-like dirty 
tykes. Eh! but 'twas fair graund tae see 'em rinnin' 
awa' as if the de'il were after them, spierin' back o'er 
their shoulders, an' a' by reason of a bit squeakie o' the 
pipes, here. An' so, sir, ye hae it." 

I now proceeded to build and relight the fire, during 
which the Scot drew a packet of bread and cheese from his 
sporran, together with a flask which, having uncorked, he 
held out to me with the one word, " Whuskey ! " 



The Highland Piper 175 

" Thank you, Donald, but I rarely drink anything 
stronger than ale," said I. 

" Aweel ! " said he, " if ye winna', ye winna', an' there 's 
but a wee drappie left, tae be sure." Whereupon, after 
two or three generous gulps, he addressed himself to his 
bread and cheese, and I, following his example, took out 
the edibles Simon had provided. 

"An' ye 're minded tae bide here, ye tell me? " he in- 
quired after a while. 

" Yes," I nodded, " but that need not interfere with 
you — two can live here as easily as one, and, now that I 
have had a good look at you, I think we might get along 
very well together." 

" Sir," said he solemnly, " my race is royal — I am a 
Stuart — here 's a Stuart's hand," and he reached out 
his hand to me across the hearth with a gesture that was 
full of a reposeful dignity. Indeed, I never remember to 
have seen Donald anything but dignified. 

" How do you find life in these parts ? " I inquired. 

" Indeefferent, sir — vera indeeff erent ! Tae be sure, at 
fairs an' sic-like I 've often had as much as ten shillin' in 
ma bonnet at a time; but it's juist the kilties that draw 
'em ; they hae no real love for the pipes, whateffer ! A 
rantin' reel pleases 'em well eneugh, but eh! they hae no 
hankerin' for the gude music." 

" That is a question open to argument, Donald," said 
I ; " can any one play real music on a bagpipe, think 
you?" 

" Sir," returned the Scot, setting down the empty flask 
and frowning darkly at the fire, " the pipes is the king 
of a' instruments, 't is the sweetest, the truest, the oldest, 
whateffer ! " 

" True, it is very old," said I thoughtfully ; " it was 
known, I believe, to the Greeks, and we find mention of it 
in the Latin as ' tibia utricularia ; ' Suetonius tells us that 
Nero promised to appear publicly as a bagpiper. Then, 
too, Chaucer's Miller played a bagpipe, and Shakespeare 
frequently mentions the 4 drone of a Lincolnshire Bag- 



176 The Broad Highway 

pipe.' Yes, it is certainly a very old, and, I think, a very 
barbarous instrument." 

" Hoot toot ! the man talks like a muckle fule," said 
Donald, nodding to the fire. 

" For instance," I continued, " there can be no compari- 
son between a bagpipe and a — fiddle, say." 

" A fiddle ! " exclaimed Donald in accents of withering 
scorn, and still addressing the fire. " Ye can juist tell 
him tae gang tae the de'il wi' his fiddle." 

" Music is, I take it, the expression of one's mood or 
thought, a dream translated into sound," said I thought- 
fully, " therefore — " 

" Hae ye ever heard the pipes ? " 

" Why, yes, but long ago." 

" Then," said Donald, " ye shall juist hear 'em again." 
So saying, he wiped his mouth, took up his instrument, 
and began slowly inflating it. 

Then, all at once, from drones and chanter there rushed 
forth such a flood of melody as seemed to sweep me away 
upon its tide. 

First I seemed to hear a roar of wind through desolate 
glens, a moan of trees, and a rush of sounding waters; 
yet softly, softly there rises above the flood of sound a 
little rippling melody which comes, and goes, and comes 
again, growing ever sweeter with repetition. And now 
the roar of wind is changed to the swing of marching 
feet, the tread of a mighty host whose step is strong and 
free; and lo! they are singing, as they march, and the 
song is bold and wild, wild, wild. Again and again, 
beneath the song, beneath the rhythm of marching feet, 
the melody rises, very sweet but infinitely sad, like a silver 
pipe or an angel's voice tremulous with tears. Once again 
the theme changes, and it is battle, and death, sudden, 
and sharp; there is the rush and shock of charging 
ranks, and the surge and tumult of conflict, above whose 
thunder, loud and clear and shrill, like some battle-cry, 
the melody swells, one moment triumphant, and the next 
lost again. 



The Highland Piper 177 

But the thunder rolls away, distant and more distant 
s — the day is lost, and won ; but, sudden and clear, the 
melody rings out once more, fuller now, richer, and com- 
plete; the silver pipe has become a golden trumpet. And 
yet, what sorrow, what anguish unspeakable rings through 
it, the weeping and wailing of a nation! So the melody 
sinks slowly, to die away in one long-drawn, minor note, 
and Donald is looking across at me with his grave smile, 
and I will admit both his face and figure are sadly blurred. 

" Donald," said I, after a little, " Donald, I will never 
speak against the pipes again; they are indeed the king 
of all instruments — played as you play them." 

" Ou ay, I 'm a bonnie piper, I '11 no deny it ! " he an- 
swered. " I 'm glad ye like it, for, Sassenach though ye 
be, it proves ye hae the music. 'T is a bit pibroch I made 
tae Wullie Wallace — him as the damned Sassenach mur- 
dered — black be their fa'. Aweel ! ? t was done afore your 
time or mine — so — gude-nict tae ye, Southeron ! " Say- 
ing which, he rose, saluted me stiffly, and stalked majesti- 
cally to bed. 



CHAPTER XXIX 

HOW BLACK GEORGE AND I SHOOK HANDS 

The world was full of sunshine, the blithe song of birds, 
and the sweet, pure breath of waking flowers as I rose 
next morning, and, coming to the stream, threw myself 
down beside it and plunged my hands and arms and head 
into the limpid water whose contact seemed to fill me with 
a wondrous gladness in keeping with the world about me. 

In a little while I rose, with the water dripping from me, 
and having made shift to dry myself upon my neckcloth, 
nothing else being available, returned to the cottage. 

Above my head I could hear a gentle sound rising and 
falling with a rhythmic measure, that told me Donald still 
slept; so, clapping on my hat and coat, I started out to 
my first day's work at the forge, breakfastless, for the 
good and sufficient reason that there was none to be had, 
but full of the glad pure beauty of the morning. And I 
bethought me of the old Psalmist's deathless words: 
" Though sorrow endure for a night, yet joy cometh in 
the morning " (brave, true words which shall go ringing 
down the ages to bear hope and consolation to many a 
wearied, troubled soul) ; for now, as I climbed the steep 
path where bats had hovered last night, and turned to look 
back at the pit which had seemed a place of horror — 
behold ! it was become a very paradise of quivering green, 
spangled with myriad jewels where the dew yet clung. 

Indeed, if any man would experience the full ecstasy of 
being alive — the joi de vivre as the French have it — let 
him go out into the early morning, when the sun is young, 
and look about him with a seeing eye. 



Black George and I Shake Hands 179 

So, in a little while, with the golden song of a black- 
bird in my ears, I turned village-wards, very hungry, yet, 
nevertheless, content. 

Long before I reached the smithy I could hear the ring 
of Black George's hammer, though the village was not yet 
astir, and it was with some trepidation as to my reception 
that I approached the open doorway. 

There he stood, busy at his anvil, goodly to look upon 
in his bare-armed might, and with the sun shining in his 
yellow hair, a veritable son of Anak. He might have been 
some hero, or demigod come back from that dim age when 
angels wooed the daughters of men, rather than a village 
blacksmith, and a very sulky one at that ; for though he 
must have been aware of my presence, he never glanced 
up or gave the slightest sign of welcome, or the reverse. 

Now, as I watched, I noticed a certain slowness — a 
heaviness in all his movements — together with a listless, 
slipshod air which, I judged, was very foreign to him; 
moreover, as he worked, I thought he hung his head lower 
than was quite necessary. 

" George ! " George went on hammering. " George ! " 
said I again. He raised the hammer for another stroke, 
hesitated, then lifted his head with a jerk, and immediately 
I knew why he had avoided my eye. 

" What do 'ee want wi' me ? " 

" I have come for two reasons," said I ; " one is to begin 
work — " 

" Then ye 'd best go away again," he broke in ; " ye '11 
get no work here." 

" And the second," I went on, " is to offer you my hand. 
Will you take it, George, and let bygones be bygones ? " 

" No," he burst out vehemently. " No, I tell 'ee. Ye 
think to come 'ere an' crow o'er me, because ye beat me, 
by a trick, and because ye heerd — her — " His voice 
broke, and, dropping his hammer, he turned his back upon 
me. " Called me ' coward ' ! she did," he went on after 
a little while. " You heerd her — they all heerd her ! I 've 
been a danged fule!" he said, more as if speaking his 



180 The Broad Highway 

thoughts aloud than addressing me, " but a man can't help 
lovin' a lass — like Prue, and when 'e loves 'e can't 'elp 
hopin'. I 've hoped these three years an' more, and last 
night — she called me — coward." Something bright and 
glistening splashed down upon the anvil, and there ensued 
a silence broken only by the piping of the birds and the 
stirring of the leaves outside. 

" A fule I be ! " said Black George at last, shaking his 
head, " no kind o' man for the likes o' her ; too big I be 
— and rough. And yet — if she 'd only given me the 
chance ! " 

Again there fell a silence wherein, mingled with the 
bird-chorus, came the tap, tapping of a stick upon the 
hard road, and the sound of approaching footsteps ; where- 
upon George seized the handle of the bellows and fell to 
blowing the fire vigorously ; yet once I saw him draw the 
back of his hand across his eyes with a quick, furtive ges- 
ture. A moment after, the Ancient appeared, a quaint, 
befrocked figure, framed in the yawning doorway and 
backed by the glory of the morning. He stood awhile 
to lean upon his stick and peer about, his old eyes still 
dazzled by the sunlight he had just left, owing to which 
he failed to see me where I sat in the shadow of the forge. 

" Marnin', Jarge ! " said he, with his quick, bright nod. 
The smith's scowl was blacker and his deep voice gruffer 
than usual as he returned the greeting; but the old man 
seemed to heed it not at all, but, taking his snuff-box from 
the lining of his tall, broad-brimmed hat (its usual abid- 
ing place), he opened it, with his most important air. 

" Jarge," said he, " I 'm thinkin' ye 'd better tak' Job 
back to strike for ye again if you 'm goin' to mend t' owd 
screen." 

" What d' ye mean ? " growled Black George. 

"Because," continued the old man, gathering a pinch 
of snuff with great deliberation, " because, Jarge, the 
young feller as beat ye at the throwin' — 'im as was to 
'ave worked for ye at 'is own price — be dead." 

" What ! " cried Black George, starting. 



Black George and I Shake Hands 1 8 1 

" Dead ! " nodded the old man, " a corp' 'e be — eh ! 
such a fine, promisin' young chap, an' now — a corp'." 
Here the Ancient nodded solemnly again, three times, and 
inhaled his pinch of snuff with great apparent zest and 
enjoyment. 

" Why — " began the amazed George, " what — " and 
broke off to stare, open-mouthed. 

" Last night, as ever was," continued the old man, " 'e 
went down to th' 'aunted cottage — 't were n't no manner 
o' use tryin' to turn 'im, no, not if I 'd gone down to 'im 
on my marrer-bones — 'e were that set on it ; so off he 
goes, 'bout sundown, to sleep in th' 'aunted cottage — I 
knows, Jarge, 'cause I follered un, an' seen for myself; 
so now I 'm a-goin' down to find 'is corp' — " 

He had reached thus far, when his eye, accustomed to 
the shadows, chancing to meet mine, he uttered a gasp, 
and stood staring at me with dropped jaw. 

" Peter ! " he stammered at last. " Peter — be that you, 
Peter?" 

" To be sure it is," said I. 

" Bean't ye — dead, then? " 

" I never felt more full of life." 

" But ye slep' in th' 'aunted cottage last night." 

" Yes." 

" But — but — the ghost, Peter? " 

" Is a wandering Scotsman." 

" Why then I can't go down and find ye corp' arter 
all? " 

" I fear not, Ancient." 

The old man slowly closed his snuff-box, shaking his 
head as he did so. 

" Ah, well ! I won't blame ye, Peter," said he magnan- 
imously ; " it bean't your fault, lad, no — but what 's come 
to the ghost ! " 

" The ghost," I answered, " is nothing more dreadful 
than a wandering Scotsman ! " 

" Scotsman ! " exclaimed the Ancient sharply. " Scots- 
man ! " 



182 The Broad Highway 

" Yes, Ancient." 

" You 'm mazed, Peter — ah ! mazed ye be ! What, 
are n't I heerd un moanin' an' groanin' to 'isself — ah ! 
.an* twitterin' tu?" 

" As to that," said I, " those shrieks and howls he made 
with his bagpipe, very easy for a skilled player such as he." 

Some one was drawing water from a well across the road, 
for I heard the rattle of the bucket, and the creak of the 
winch, in the pause which now ensued, during which the 
Ancient, propped upon his stick, surveyed me with an ex- 
pression that was not exactly anger, nor contempt, nor 
sorrow, and yet something of all three. At length he 
sighed, and shook his head at me mournfully. 

" Peter," said he, " Peter, I did n't think as you 'd try 
to tak' 'vantage of a old man wi' a tale the like o' that — 
such a very, very old man, Peter — such a old, old man ! " 

" But I assure you, it 's the truth," said I earnestly. 

" Peter, I seen Scotchmen afore now," said he, with a 
reproachful look, " ah ! that I 'ave, many 's the time, an' 
Scotchmen don't go about wi' tails, nor yet wi' 'orns on 
their 'eads — leastways I 've never seen one as did. An', 
Peter, I know what a bagpipe is ; I 've heerd 'em often 
an' often — squeak they do, yes, but a squeak bean't a 
scream, Peter, nor yet a groan — no." Having delivered 
himself of which, the Ancient shook his head at me again, 
and, turning his back, hobbled away. 

When I turned to look at George, it was to find him 
regarding me with a very strange expression. 

" Sir," said he ponderously, " did you sleep in th' 
'aunted cottage last night? " 

" Yes, though, as I have tried to explain, and unsuc- 
cessfully it seems, it is haunted by nothing more alarming 
than a Scots Piper." 

" Sir," said George, in the same slow, heavy way, " I 
couldn't go a-nigh the place myself — 'specially arter 
dark — I 'd be — ah ! I 'd be afeard to ! I did go once, 
and then not alone, and I ran away. Sir, you 'm a better 
man nor me ; you done what I durst n't do. Sir, if so 






Black George and I Shake Hands 183 

be as you 'm in the same mind about it — I should like 
to — to shake your hand." 

So there, across the anvil which was to link our lives 
together thenceforth, Black George and I clasped hands, 
looking into each other's eyes. 

" George," said I at last, " I 've had no breakfast." 

" Nor I ! " said George. 

" And I 'm mightily hungry ! " 

" So am I," said George. 

" Then come, and let us eat," and I turned to the door. 

"Why, so we will — but not at — ' The Bull ' — she 
be theer. Come to my cottage — it be close by — that 
is, if you care to, sir? " 

" With all my heart ! " said I, " and my name is — 
Peter." 

" What do you say to 'am and eggs — Peter ? " 

"Ham and eggs will be most excellent!" said I. 



CHAPTER XXX 

IN WHICH I FORSWEAR MYSELF AND AM ACCUSED 
OF POSSESSING THE " EVIL EYE " 

Smithing is a sturdy, albeit a very black art; yet its 
black is a good, honest black, very easily washed off, which 
is more than can be said for many other trades, arts, and 
professions. 

Yes, a fine, free, manly art is smithing, and those who 
labor at the forge would seem, necessarily, to reflect these 
virtues. 

Since old Tubal Cain first taught man how to work in 
brass and iron, who ever heard of a sneaking, mean- 
spirited, cowardly blacksmith? To find such an one were 
as hard a matter as to discover the Fourth Dimension, 
methinks, or the carcass of a dead donkey. 

Your true blacksmith is usually a strong man, something 
bowed of shoulder, perhaps ; a man slow of speech, bold of 
eye, kindly of thought, and, lastly — simple-hearted. 

Riches, Genius, Power — all are fair things ; yet Riches 
is never satisfied, Power is ever upon the wing, and when 
was Genius ever happy? But, as for this divine gift of 
Simpleness of Heart, who shall say it is not the best of all? 

Black George himself was no exception to his kind; what 
wonder was it, then, that, as the days lengthened into 
weeks, my liking for him ripened into friendship? 

To us, sometimes lonely, voyagers upon this Broad 
Highway of life, journeying on, perchance through deso- 
late places, yet hoping and dreaming ever of a glorious 
beyond, how sweet and how blessed a thing it is to meet 



The "Evil Eye" 185 

some fellow wayfarer, and find in him a friend, honest, and 
loyal, and brave, to walk with us in the sun, whose voice 
may comfort us in the shadow, whose hand is stretched 
out to us in the difficult places to aid us, or be aided. In- 
deed, I say again, it is a blessed thing, for though the 
way is sometimes very long, such meetings and friendships 
be very few and far between. 

So, as I say, there came such friendship between 
Black George and myself, and I found him a man ?: 
strong, simple and lovable, and as such I honor him to 
this day. 

The Ancient, on the contrary, seemed to have set me in 
his " black books ; " he would no longer sit with me over 
a tankard outside " The Bull " of an evening, nor look in 
at the forge, with a cheery nod and word, as had been his 
wont; he seemed rather to shun my society, and, if I did 
meet him by chance, would treat me with the frigid dignity 
of a Grand Seigneur. Indeed, the haughtiest duke that 
ever rolled in his chariot is far less proud than your plain 
English rustic, and far less difficult to propitiate. Thus y 
though I had once had the temerity to question him as to 
his altered treatment of me, the once had sufficed. He was : 
sitting, I remember, on the bench before " The Bull," his 
hands crossed upon his stick and his chin resting upon his. 
hands. 

" Peter," he had answered, regarding me with a terrible 
eye, " Peter, I be disapp'inted in ye ! " Hereupon rising, 
he had rapped loudly upon his snuff-box and hobbled stiffly 
away. And that ended the matter, so far as I was con- 
cerned, though, to be sure, Simon had interceded in my 
behalf with no better success ; and thus I was still left 
wondering. 

One day, however, as George and I were hard at work,, 
I became aware of some one standing in the doorway 
behind me, but at first paid no heed ( for it was become the 
custom for folk to come to look at the man who lived all 
alone in the haunted cottage), so, as I say, I worked on 
heedlessly. 

" Peter ? " said a voice at last and, turning, I beheld the 



1 86 The Broad Highway 

old man leaning upon his stick and regarding me beneath 
his lowered brows. 

" Why, Ancient ! " I exclaimed, and held out my hand. 
But he checked me with a gesture, and fumblingly took out 
his snuff-box. 

" Peter," said he, fixing me with his eye, " were it a 
Scotchman or were it not? " 

" Why, to be sure it was," I answered, " a Scotch piper, 
as I told you, and — " 

" Peter," said the Ancient, tapping his snuff-box, " it 
were n't no ghost, then — ay or no." 

" No," said I, " nothing but a — " 

" Peter ! " said the Ancient, nodding solemnly, " Peter, 
I 'ates ye ! " and, turning sharp about, he tottered away 
upon his stick. 

" So — that 's it ! " said I, staring after the old man's 
retreating figure. 

" Why, ye see," said George, somewhat diffidently, " ye 
see, Peter, Gaffer be so old ! — and all 'is friends be dead, 
and he 've come to look on this 'ere ghost as belongin' to 
'im a'most. Loves to sit an' tell about it, 'e do; it be all 
'e 've got left to live for, as ye might say, and now you Ve 
been and gone and said as theer bean't no ghost arter all, 
d' ye see ? " 

" Ah, yes, I see," I nodded, " I see. But you don't still 
believe in this ghost, do you, George? " 

" N-o-o-o — not 'xactly," answered George, hesitating 
upon the word, " can't say as I believe 'xactly, and yet, 
Lord ! 'ow should I know ? " 

" Then you do still believe in the ghost ? " 

"Why, y' see, Peter, we do know as a man 'ung 'isself 
theer, 'cause Gaffer found un — likewise I 've heerd it 
scream — but as for believin' in it, since you say contrary- 
wise — why, 'ow should I know ? " 

" But why should I deny it, George ; why should I tell 
you all of a Scotsman ? " 

" Why, y' see, Peter," said George, in his heavy way, 
** you be such a strange sort o' chap ! " 

" George," said I, " let us get back to work." 



The "Evil Eye" 187 



Yet, in a little while, I set aside the hammer, and turned 
to the door. 

" Peter, wheer be goin'? " 

" To try and make my peace with the Ancient," I an- 
swered, and forthwith crossed the road to " The Bull." 
But with my foot on the step I paused, arrested by the 
sound of voices and laughter within the tap, and, loudest 
of all, was the voice of the pseudo blacksmith, Job. 

" If I were only a bit younger ! " the Ancient was saying. 
Now, peeping in through the casement, a glance at his de- 
jected attitude, and the blatant bearing of the others, 
explained to me the situation then and there. 

" Ah ! but you ain't," retorted old Amos, " you 'm a old, 
old man an' gettin' older wi' every tick o' the clock, you 
be, an' gettin' mazed-like wi' years." 

" Haw ! haw ! " laughed Job and the five or six others. 

" Oh, you — Job ! if my b'y Simon was 'ere 'e 'd pitch 
'ee out into the road, so 'e would — same as Black Jarge 
done," quavered the Ancient. 

" P'r'aps, Gaffer, p'r'aps ! " returned Job, " but I sez. 
again, I believe what Peter sez, an' I don't believe there 
never was no ghost at all." 

" Ay, lad, but I tell 'ee theer was — I seed un ! " cried 
the old man eagerly, " seed un wi' these two eyes, many 's 
the time. You, Joel Amos — you 've 'eerd un a-moanin r 
an' a-groanin' — you believe as I seed un, don't 'ee now — 
come? " 

" He! he! " chuckled Old Amos, " I don't know if I du, 
Gaffer — ye see you 'm gettin' that old — " 

" But I did — I did — oh, you chaps, I tell 'ee I did ! " 

" You 'm gettin' old, Gaffer," repeated Amos, dwelling 
upon the theme with great unction, " very, very old — " 

" But so strong as a bull, I be ! " added the Ancient* 
trying manfully to steady the quaver in his voice. 

" Haw ! haw ! " laughed Job and the others, while Old 
Amos chuckled shrilly again. 

" But I tell 'ee I did see un, I — I see'd un plain as 
plain," quavered the Ancient, in sudden distress. " Old 
Nick it were, wi' 'orns, an' a tail." 



1 88 The Broad Highway 

" Why, Peter told us 't were only a Scottish man wi' a 
bagpipe," returned Job. 

" Ay, for sure," nodded Old Amos, " so 'e did." 

" A lie, it be — a lie, a lie ! " cried the Ancient, " 't were 
Old Nick, I see un — plain as I see you." 

"Why, ye see, you 'm gettin' dre'fful old an' 'elpless, 
<Gaffer," chuckled Old Amos again, " an' your eyes plays 
tricks wi' you." 

" Ah, to be sure they do ! " added Job ; whereupon Old 
Amos chuckled so much that he was taken by a violent fit 
of coughing. 

" Oh ! you chaps, you as I 've seen grow up from babbies 
— are n't theer one o' ye to tak' the old man's word an' 
believe as I seen un? " The cracked old voice sounded 
more broken than usual, and I saw a tear crawling slowly 
down the Ancient's furrowed cheek. Nobody answered, 
and there fell a silence broken only by the shuffle and 
scrape of heavy boots and the setting down of tankards. 

" Why, ye see, Gaffer," said Job at last, " theer 's been 
a lot o' talk o' this 'ere ghost, an' some 'as even said as 
they 'eerd it, but, come to think on it, nobody 's never laid 
.eyes on it but you, so — " 

" There you are wrong, my fellow," said I, stepping into 
the room. " I also have seen it." 

" You ? " exclaimed Job, while half-a-dozen pairs of eyes 
stared at me in slow wonderment. 

" Certainly I have." 

" But you said as it were a Scotchman, wi' a bagpipe, I 
heerd ye — we all did." 

" And believed it — like fools ! " 

" Peter ! " cried the Ancient, rising up out of his chair, 
** Peter, do 'ee mean it ? " 

" To be sure I do." 

" Do 'ee mean it were a ghost, Peter, do 'ee? " 

" Why, of course it was," I nodded, " a ghost, or the 
devil himself, hoof, horns, tail, and all — to say nothing of 
the fire and brimstone." 

" Peter," said the Ancient, straightening his bent old 



The "Evil Eye" 189 

back proudly, " oh, Peter ! — tell 'em I 'm a man o' truth, 
an' no liar — tell 'em, Peter." 

" They know that," said I ; " they know it without my 
telling them, Ancient." 

" But," said Job, staring at me aghast, " do 'ee mean 
to say as you live in a place as is 'aunted by the — devil 
'isself ? " 

" Oh, Lord bless 'ee ! " cried the old man, laying his hand 
upon my arm, " Peter don't mind Old Nick no more 'n I do 
— Peter are n't af eard of 'im. 'Cause why ? 'Cause 'e 'ave 
a clean 'eart, 'ave Peter. You don't mind Old Nick, do 'ee 9 
lad? " 

" Not in the least," said I, whereupon those nearest in- 
stinctively shrank farther from me, while Old Amos rose 
and shuffled towards the door. 

" I 've heerd o' folk sellin' theirselves to the devil afore 
now ! " said he. 

" You be a danged fule, Joel Amos ! " exclaimed the 
Ancient angrily. 

" Fule or no — I never see a chap wi' such a tur'ble 
dark-lookin' face afore, an' wi' such eyes — so black, an* 
sharp, an' piercin' as needles, they be — ah ! goes through 
a man like two gimblets, they do ! " Now, as he spoke, 
Old Amos stretched out one arm towards me with his first 
and second fingers crossed: which fingers he now opened 
wide apart, making what I believe is called " the horns," 
and an infallible safeguard against this particular form 
of evil. 

" It 's the * Evil Eye,' " said he in a half whisper, " the 
* Evil Eye ' ! " and, turning about, betook himself away- 

One by one the others followed, and, as they passed me, 
each man averted his eyes and I saw that each had his 
fingers crossed. 

So it came to pass that I was, thenceforward, regarded 
askance, if not openly avoided, by the whole village, with 
the exception of Simon and the Ancient, as one in league 
with the devil, and possessed of the " Evil Eye." 



CHAPTER XXXI 

IN WHICH DONALD BIDS ME FAREWELL 

Halcyon days ! my masters, happy, care-free, halcyon 
days ! To waken to the glory of a summer's morning, and 
shaking off dull sleep, like a mantle, to stride out into a 
world all green and gold, breathing a fragrant air laden 
with sweet, earthy smells. To plunge within the clear, 
cool waters of the brook whose magic seemed to fill one's 
blood with added life and lust of living. Anon, with 
Gargantuan appetite, to sit and eat until even Donald 
would fall a-ma r veiling ; and so, through shady coppice 
and sunny meadow, betimes to work. 

Halcyon days ! my masters, happy, care-free, halcyon 
days! with the ringing hammers, the dancing sparks 
mounting upon the smoke, the sweat, the toil, yet all light- 
ened with laugh and song and good-fellowship. 

And then, the labor done, the fire dead — Black George 
to his lonely cottage, and I to " The Bull " — there to sit 
between Simon and the Ancient, waited upon by the dex- 
terous hands of sweet-eyed Prudence. What mighty 
rounds of juicy beef, washed down by draughts of good 
brown ale! What pies and puddings, prepared by those 
game slender, dexterous hands ! And later, pipe in mouth, 
what grave discussions upon men and things — peace and 
war — the dead and the living — the rise and fall of 
nations — and Simon's new litter of pigs ! At last, the 
46 Good nights " being said — homeward through the twi- 
lit lanes, often pausing to look upon the shadowy woods, 
to watch some star, or hearken to the mournful note of a 
night- jar, soft with distance. 



Donald Bids me Farewell 191 

What wonder if, at this time, my earlier dreams and 
ambitions faded from my ken; what wonder that Petro- 
nius Arbiter, and the jolly Sieur de Brantome lay neg- 
lected in my dusty knapsack. 

Go to ! Petronius, go to ! How " stale, flat, and un- 
profitable " were all thy vaunted pleasures, compared with 
mine. Alas ! for thy noble intellect draggled in the mire 
to pander to an Imperial Swine, and for all thy power and 
wise statecraft which yet could not save thee from un- 
timely death. 

And thou, Brantome! old gossip, with all thy scan- 
dalous stories of ladies, always and ever " tres belle, et 
fort honnete," couldst not find time among them all to 
note the glories of the world wherein they lived, and 
moved, and had their " fort honnete " being? 

But let it not be thought my leisure hours were passed 
in idle dreaming and luxurious ease; on the contrary, I 
had, with much ado, rethatched the broken roof of my 
cottage as well as I might, mended the chimney, fitted 
glass to the casements and a new door upon its hinges. 
This last was somewhat clumsily contrived, I grant you, 
and of a vasty strength quite unnecessary, yet a very 
excellent door I considered it, nevertheless. 

Having thus rendered my cottage weather-proof, I next 
turned my attention to furnishing it. To which end I, in 
turn, and with infinite labor, constructed a bedstead, two 
elbow-chairs, and a table; all to the profound disgust of 
Donald, who could by no means abide the rasp of my saw, 
so that, reaching for his pipes, he would fill the air with 
eldrich shrieks and groans, or drown me in a torrent of 
martial melody. 

It was about this time — that is to say, my second 
bedstead was nearing completion, and I was seriously con- 
sidering the building of a press with cupboards to hold my 
crockery, also a shelf for my books — when, chancing to 
return home somewhat earlier than usual, I was surprised 
to see Donald sitting upon the bench I had set up beside 



192 The Broad Highway 

the door, polishing the buckles of that identical pair of 
square-toed shoes that had once so piqued my curiosity. 

As I approached he rose, and came to meet me with the 
brogues in his hand. 

" Man, Peter," said he, " I maun juist be gangin'." 

"" Going ! " I repeated ; " going where ? " 

*" Back tae Glenure — the year is a'most up, ye ken, 
an* I wadna' hae ma brither Alan afore me wi' the lassie, 
forbye he 's an unco braw an' sonsy man, ye ken, an' a 
lassie's mind is aye a kittle thing." 

" True," I answered, " what little I know of woman* 
would lead me to suppose so ; and yet — Heaven knows v . 
I shall be sorry to lose you, Donald." 

" Ay — I ken that fine, an' ye '11 be unco lonesome 
wi'out me an' the pipes, I 'm thinkin'." 

"Very!" 

" Eh, Peter, man ! if it wasna' for the lassie, I 'd no hae 
the heart tae leave ye. Ye '11 no be forgettin' the 4 Wullie 
Wallace Lament'?" 

"Never!" said I. 

" Oh, man, Peter ! it 's in my mind ye '11 no hear sic 
pipin' again, forbye there 's nae man — Hielander nor 
Lowlander — has juist the trick o' the 4 warblers ' like me, 
an' it 's no vera like we shall e'er meet again i' this warld, 
man, Peter. But I '11 aye think o' ye — away there in 
Glenure, when I play the ' Wullie Wallace ' bit tune — I '11 
aye think o' ye, Peter, man." 

After this we stood awhile, staring past each other into 
&he deepening shadows. 

*" Peter," said he at last, " it 's no a vera genteel pres- 
ent tae be makin' ye, I doot," and he held up the battered 
shoes. " They 're unco worn, an' wi' a clout here an' 
there, ye '11 notice, but the buckles are guid siller, an' I 
hae naething else to gi'e ye. Ay, man ! but it 's many a 
weary mile I 've marched in these at the head o' the Ninety- 
Second, an' it 's mony a stark fecht they 've been through 
— Vittoria, Salamanca, Talavera, tae Quatre Bras an' 
Waterloo; tak' 'em, Peter, tak' 'em — tae mind ye some- 



Donald Bids me Farewell 193 

times o' Donal' Stuart. An' now — gi'e us a grup o' ye 
hand. Gude keep ye, Peter, man ! " 

So saying, he thrust the brogues upon me, caught and 
squeezed my hand, and turning sharp about, strode away 
through the shadows, his kilt swaying, and tartans stream- 
ing gallantly. 

And, presently, I went and sat me down upon the bench 
beside the door, with the war-worn shoes upon my knee. 
Suddenly, as I sat there, faint and fainter with distance, 
and unutterably sad, came the slow, sweet music of Don- 
ald's pipes playing the " Wallace Lament." Softly the 
melody rose and fell, until it died away in one long-drawn, 
wailing note. 

Now, as it ended, I rose, and uncovered my head, for I 
knew this was Donald's last farewell. 

Much more I might have told of this strange yet lov- 
able man who was by turns the scarred soldier, full of 
stirring tales of camp and battlefield; the mischievous 
child delighting in tricks and rogueries of all sorts ; and 
the stately Hieland gentleman. Many wild legends he told 
me of his native glens, with strange tales of the " second 
sight " — but here, perforce, must be no place for such. 
So here then I leave Donald and hurry on with my 
narrative. 



CHAPTER XXXII 

IN WHICH THI8 FIRST BOOK BEGINS TO DRAW TO A 
CLOSE 

"Strike! ding! ding! 
Strike! ding! ding! 
The iron glows, 
And loveth good blows 
As fire doth bellows. 
Strike! ding! ding!" 

Out beyond the smithy door a solitary star twinkles low 
down in the night sky, like some great jewel; but we have 
no time for star-gazing, Black George and I, for to-night 
we are at work on the old church screen, which must be 
finished to-morrow. 

And so the bellows roar hoarsely, the hammers clang, 
and the sparks fly, while the sooty face of Black George, 
now in shadow, now illumed by the fire, seems like the face 
of some Fire-god or Salamander. In the corner, perched 
securely out of reach of stray sparks, sits the Ancient, 
snuff-box in hand as usual. 

To my mind, a forge is at its best by night, for, in the 
red, fiery glow, the blackened walls, the shining anvil, and 
the smith himself, bare-armed and bare of chest, are all 
magically transfigured, while, in the hush of night, the 
drone of the bellows sounds more impressive, the stroke of 
the hammers more sonorous and musical, and the flying 
sparks mark plainly their individual courses, ere they 
vanish. 

I stand, feet well apart, and swing the great " sledge " 
to whose diapason George's hand-hammer beats a tinkling 
melody, coming in after each stroke with a ring and clash 



First Book Draws to a Close 195 

exact and true, as is, and has been, the way of masters of 
the smithing craft all the world over from time immemorial. 

" George," said I, during a momentary lull, leaning my 
hands upon the long hammer-shaft, " you don't sing." 

" No, Peter." 

"And why not?" 

" I think, Peter." 

" But surely you can both think and sing, George ? " 

" Not always, Peter." 

" What 's your trouble, George ? " 

" No trouble, Peter," said he, above the roar of the 
bellows. 

" Then sing, George." 

" Ay, Jarge, sing," nodded the Ancient ; " 't is a poor 
'eart as never rejices, an' that's in the Scripters — so 
sing, Jarge." 

George did not answer, but, with a turn of his mighty 
wrist, drew the glowing iron from the fire. And once more 
the sparks fly, the air is full of the clink of hammers, and 
the deep-throated Song of the Anvil, in which even the 
Ancient joins, in a voice somewhat quavery, and generally 
a note or two behind, but with great gusto and goodwill 
notwithstanding : 

"Strike! ding! ding! 
Strike! ding! ding!" 

in the middle of which I was aware of one entering to us, 
and presently, turning round, espied Prudence with a 
great basket on her arm. Hereupon hammers were thrown 
aside, and we straightened our backs, for in that basket 
was our supper. 

Very fair and sweet Prudence looked, lithe and vigorous, 
and straight as a young poplar, with her shining black 
hair curling into little tight rings about her ears, and with 
great, shy eyes, and red, red mouth. Surely a man might 
seek very far ere he found such another maid as this 
brown-cheeked, black-eyed village beauty. 

** Good evening, Mr. Peter ! " said she, dropping me a 



ig6 The Broad Highway 

curtesy with a grace that could not have been surpassed by 
any duchess in the land ; but, as for poor George, she did 
not even notice him, neither did he raise his curly head nor 
glance toward her. 

" You come just when you are most needed, Prudence," 
said I, relieving her of the heavy basket, " for here be two 
hungry men." 

" Three ! " broke in the Ancient ; " so 'ungry as a lion, 
/be!" 

" Three hungry men, Prudence, who have been hearken- 
ing for your step this half -hour and more." 

Quoth Prudence shyly : " For the sake of my basket ? " 

" Ay, for sure \ " croaked the Ancient ; " so ravenous 
as a tiger I be ! " 

" No," said I, shaking my head, " basket or no basket, 
you are equally welcome, Prudence — how say you, 
George ? " Bufc George only mumbled in his beard. The 
Ancient and I now set to work putting up an extemporized 
table, but as for George, he stood staring down moodily 
into the yet glowing embers of the forge. 

Having put up the table, I crossed to where Prudence 
was busy unpacking her basket. 

" Prudence," said I, " are you still at odds with 
George? " Prudence nodded. 

" But," said I, " he is such a splendid fellow ! His out- 
burst the other day was quite natural, under the circum- 
stances; surely you can forgive him, Prudence." 

" There be more nor that betwixt us, Mr. Peter," sighed 
Prue. " *T is his drinkin' ; six months ago he promised 
me never to touch another drop — an' he broke his word 
wi' me." 

" But surely good ale, in moderation, will harm no man 
' — nay, on the contrary — " 

" But Jarge bean't like other men, Mr. Peter ! " 

" No ; he is much bigger, and stronger ! " said I, " and 
I never saw a handsomer fellow." 

" Yes," nodded the girl, " so strong as a giant, an' so 
weak as a little child ! " 



First Book Draws to a Close 197 

" Indeed, Prudence," said I, leaning nearer to her in 
my earnestness, " I think you are a little unjust to him. 
So far as I know him, George is anything but weak-minded, 
or liable to be led into anything — " 

Hearing the Ancient chuckle gleefully, I glanced up 
to find him nodding and winking to Black George, who 
stood with folded arms and bent head, watching us from 
beneath his brows, and, as his eyes met mine, I thought 
they gleamed strangely in the firelight. 

" Come, Prue," said the Ancient, bustling forward, 
" table 's ready — let 's sit down an' eat — f aintin' an' 
f amishin' away, I be ! " 

So we presently sat down, all three of us, while Prudence 
carved and supplied our wants, as only Prudence could. 

And after a while, our hunger being appeased, I took 
out my pipe, as did the Ancient and George theirs like- 
wise, and together we filled them, slowly and carefully, as 
pipes should be filled, while Prudence folded a long, paper 
spill wherewith to light them, the which she proceeded to 
do, beginning at her grandfather's churchwarden. Now, 
while she was lighting mine, Black George suddenly rose, 
and, crossing to the forge, took thence a glowing coal with 
the tongs, thus doing the office for himself. All at once 
I saw Prue's hand was trembling, and the spill was 
dropped or ever my tobacco was well alight; then she 
turned swiftly away, and began replacing the plates and 
knives and forks in her basket. 

"Be you 'm a-goin', Prue?" inquired the Ancient 
mumblingly, for his pipe was in full blast. 

" Yes, gran'fer." 

" Then tell Simon as I '11 be along in 'arf an hour or so, 
will 'ee, lass ? " 

" Yes, gran'fer ! " Always with her back to us. 

" Then kiss ye old grandfeyther as loves 'ee, an' means 
for to see 'ee well bestowed, an' wed, one o' these fine 
days ! " Prudence stooped and pressed her fresh, red 
lips to his wrinkled old cheek and, catching up her basket, 
turned to the door, yet not so quickly but that I had 



198 The Broad Highway 

caught the gleam of tears beneath her lashes. Black 
George half rose from his seat, and stretched out his hand 
towards her burden, then sat down again as, with a hasty 
" Good night," she vanished through the yawning door- 
way. And, sitting there, we listened to her quick, light 
footstep cross the road to " The Bull." 

" She '11 make some man a fine wife, some day ! " ex- 
claimed the Ancient, blowing out a cloud of smoke, " ay, 
she '11 mak' some man as fine a wife as ever was, some 
day." 

" You speak my very thought, Ancient," said I, " she 
will indeed ; what do you think, George ? " But George's 
answer was to choke suddenly, and, thereafter, to fall 
a-coughing. 

" Smoke go t' wrong way, Jarge? " inquired the An- 
cient, fixing him with his bright eye. 

" Ay," nodded George. 

" Ha ! " said the old man, and we smoked for a time in 
silence. 

" So 'andsome as a picter she be ! " said the Ancient 
suddenly. 

" She is fairer than any picture," said I impulsively, 
" and what is better still, her nature is as sweet and 
beautiful as her face ! " 

" 'Ow do 'ee know that? " said George, turning sharply 
upon me. 

" My eyes and ears tell me so, as yours surely must 
have done long ago," I answered. 

" Ye do think as she be a purty lass, then, Peter? " in- 
quired the Ancient. 

" I think," said I, " that she is the prettiest lass I ever 
saw; don't you think so, George?" But again George's 
only answer was to choke. 

" Smoke again, Jarge? " inquired the Ancient. 

" Ay," said George, as before. 

" 'T is a fine thing to be young," said the Ancient, after 
a somewhat lengthy pause, and with a wave of his long 
pipe-stem, " a very fine thing .' " 



First Book Draws to a Close 199 

u It is," said I, " though we generally realize it all too 
late." 

As for George, he went on smoking. 

" When you are young," pursued the Ancient, " you 
eats well, an' enjys it, you sleeps well an' enjys it; your 
legs is strong, your arms is strong, an' you bean't afeard 
o' nothin' nor nobody. Oh ! life 's a very fine thing when 
you 're young ; but youth 's tur'ble quick a-goin' — the 
years roll slow at first, but gets quicker 'n quicker, till, 
one day, you wakes to find you 'm an old man ; an' when 
you 'm old, the way gets very 'ard, an' toilsome, an* 
lonely." 

" But there is always memory," said I. 

" You 'm right theer, Peter, so theer be — so theer be — 
why, I be a old, old man, wi' more years than 'airs on my 
'ead, an' yet it seems but yesterday as I were a-holdin' on 
tu my mother's skirt, an' wonderin' 'ow the moon got 
lighted. Life be very short, Peter, an' while we 'ave it 
't is well to get all the 'appiness out of it we can." 

" The wisest men of all ages preached the same," said 
I, "only they all disagreed as to how happiness was to 
be gained." 

" More fules they ! " said the Ancient. 

" Eh? " I exclaimed, sitting up. 

" More fules they ! " repeated the old man with a solemn 
nod. 

" Why, then, do you know how true happiness may be 
found? " 

" To be sure I du, Peter." 

"How?" 

" By marriage, Peter, an' 'ard work ! — an' they alius 
goes together." 

" Marriage ! " said I. 

" Marriage as ever was, Peter." 

" There I don't agree with you," said I. 

" That," retorted the Ancient, stabbing at me with his 
pipe-stem, " that 's because you never was married, Peter." 

u Marriage ! " said I ; " marriage brings care, and great 



200 The Broad Highway 

responsibility, and trouble for one's self means trouble for 
others." 

" What o' that? " exclaimed the Ancient. " 'T is care 
and 'sponsibility as mak' the man, an' if you marry a good 
wife she '11 share the burden wi' ye, an' ye '11 find what 
seemed your troubles is a blessin' arter all. When sorrer 
comes, 't is a sweet thing — oh ! a very sweet thing — to 
'ave a woman to comfort ye an' 'old your 'and in the dark 
hour — an' theer 's no sympathy so tender as a woman's, 
Peter. Then, when ye be old, like me, an' full o' years — 
't is a fine thing to 'ave a son o' your own — like Simon — 
an' a granddarter — like my Prue — 't is worth 'aving 
lived for, Peter, ay, well worth it. It 's a man's dooty 
to marry, Peter, 'is dooty to 'isself an' the world. Don't 
the Bible say summat about it not bein' good for a man 
to live alone ? Every man as is a man should marry — 
the sooner the better." 

" But," said I, " to every happy marriage there are 
scores of miserable ones." 

" 'Cause why, Peter? 'Cause people is in too much o' 
a hurry to marry, as a rule. If a man marries a lass arter 
knowin' 'er a week — 'ow is 'e goin' to know if she '11 suit 
'im all 'is days ? Nohow, Peter, it are n't nat'ral — woman 
tak's a lot o' knowin'. ' Marry in 'aste, an' repent in 
leisure ! ' That are n't in the Bible, but it ought to be." 

"And your own marriage was a truly happy one, 
Ancient? " 

" Ah ! that it were, Peter, 'app\ as ever was — but then, 
ye see, there was a Providence in it. I were a fine young 
chap in them days, summat o' your figure only bigger — 
ah ! a sight bigger — an' I were sweet on several lassies, 
an' won't say as they wer' n't sweet on me — three on 'em 
most especially so. One was a tall, bouncin' wench wi' blue 
eyes, an' golden 'air — like sunshine it were, but it wer' n't 
meant as I should buckle up wi' 'er." 

"Why not?" 

" 'Cause, it so 'appened as she married summun else." 

"And the second?" 



First Book Draws to a Close 201 

u The second were a fine, pretty maid tu, but I could n't 
marry she." 

"Why?" 

" 'Cause, Peter, she went an' took an' died afore I could 
ax 'er." 

" And the third, you married." 

65 No, Peter, though it come to the same thing in the 
end — she married I. Ye see, though I were alius at 'er 
beck an' call, I could never pluck the courage to up an' 
ax 'er right out. So things went on for a year or so, 
maybe, till one day — she were makin' apple dumplings, 
Peter — ' Martin,' says she, lookin' at me sideways out of 
'er black eyes — just like Prue's they were — 'Martin,' 
says she, ' you 'm uncommon fond o' apple-dumplings ? ' 
6 For sure,' says I, which I were, Peter. ' Martin,' says 
she, ' should n't 'ee like to eat of 'em whenever you wanted 
to, at your very own table, in a cottage o' your own? ' 
6 Ah ! if you 'd mak' 'em ! ' says I, sharp like. ' I would 
if you 'd ax me, Martin,' says she. An' so we was mar- 
ried, Peter, an' as you see, theer was a Providence in it, 
for, if the first one 'ad n't married some 'un else, an' the 
second 'ad n't died, I might ha' married one o' they, an' 
repented it all my days, for I were young then, an' fulish, 
Peter, fulish." So saying, the Ancient rose, sighing, and 
knocked the ashes from his pipe. 

" Talkin' 'bout Prue," said he, taking up his hat and 
removing his snuff-box therefrom ere he set it upon his 
head, " talkin' 'bout Prue," he repeated, with a pinch of 
snuff at his nostrils. 

" Well? " The word seemed shot out of George in- 
voluntarily. 

" Talkin' 'bout Prue," said the Ancient again, glancing 
at each of us in turn, " theer was some folks as used to 
think she were sweet on Jarge theer, but I, bein' 'er lawful 
gran'f eyther knowed different — did n't I, Jarge ? " 

" Ay," nodded the smith. 

" Many 's the time I 've said to you a-sittin' in this 
very corner, ' Jarge,' I've said, s mark my words, Jarge 



202 The Broad Highway 

— if ever my Prue does marry some 'un — which she will 

— that there some 'un won't be you.' Them be my very 
words, bean't they, Jarge? " 

" Your very words, Gaffer," nodded George. 

" Well then," continued the old man, " 'ere 's what I 
was a-comin' to — Prue 's been an' fell in love wi' some 'un 
at last." 

Black George's pipe shivered to fragments on the floor, 
and as he leaned forward I saw that his great hands were 
tightly clenched. 

" Gaffer," said he, in a strangled voice, " what do 'ee 
mean? " 

" I means what I says, Jarge." 

" How do 'ee know ? " 

" Bean't I the lass's gran'f ey ther ? " 

" Be ye sure, Gaffer — quite sure? " 

" Ay — sartin sure — twice this week, an' once the week 
afore she forgot to put any salt in the soup — an' that 
speaks wollums, Jarge, wollums ! " Here, having replaced 
his snuff-box, the Ancient put on his hat, nodded, and 
hobbled away. As for Black George, he sat there, staring 
blindly before him long after the tapping of the Ancient's 
stick had died away, nor did he heed me when I spoke, 
wherefore I laid my hand upon his shoulder. 

" Come, George," said I, " another hour, and the screen 
will be finished." He started, and, drawing from my hand, 
looked up at me very strangely. 

" No, Peter," he mumbled, " I are n't a-goin' to work 
no more to-night," and as he spoke he rose to his feet. 

" What — are you going? " said I, as he crossed to the 
door. 

" Ay, I 'm a-goin'." Now, as he went towards his cot- 
tage, I saw him reel, and stagger, like a drunken man. 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

IN WHICH WE DRAW YET NEARER TO THE END OF THIS 
FIRST BOOK 

It is not my intention to chronicle all those minor hap- 
penings that befell me, now or afterward, lest this history 
prove wearisome to the reader (on the which head I begin 
to entertain grave doubts already). Suffice it then that 
as the days grew into weeks, and the weeks into months, 
by perseverance I became reasonably expert at my trade, 
so that, some two months after my meeting with Black 
George, I could shoe a horse with any smith in the country. 

But, more than this, the people with whom I associated 
day by day — honest, loyal, and simple-hearted as they 
were, contented with their lot, and receiving all things so 
unquestioningly and thankfully, filled my life, and brought 
a great calm to a mind that had, hitherto, been somewhat 
self-centred and troubled by pessimistic doubts and fan- 
tastic dreams culled from musty pages. 

What book is there to compare with the great Book 
of Life — whose pages are forever a-turning, wherein are 
marvels and wonders undreamed; things to weep over, 
and some few to laugh at, if one but has eyes in one's head 
to see withal? 

To walk through the whispering cornfields, or the long, 
green alleys of the hop-gardens with Simon, who combines 
innkeeping with farming, to hear him tell of fruit and 
flower, of bird and beast, is better than to read the Georgics 
of Virgil. 

To sit in the sunshine and watch the Ancient, pipe in 



204 The Broad Highway 

mouth, to hearken to his animadversions upon Life, and 
Death, and Humanity, is better than the cynical wit of 
Rochefoucauld, or a page out of honest old Montaigne. 

To see the proud poise of sweet Prue's averted head, 
and the tender look in her eyes when George is near, and 
the surge of the mighty chest and the tremble of the strong 
man's hand at the sound of her light footfall, is more 
enthralling than any written romance, old or new. 

In regard to these latter, I began, at this time, to con- 
trive schemes and to plot plots for bringing them together 
— to bridge over the difficulty which separated them, for, 
being happy, I would fain see them happy also. Now, how 
I succeeded in this self-imposed task, the reader (if he 
trouble to read far enough) shall see for himself. 

" George," said I, on a certain Saturday morning, as 
I washed the grime from my face and hands, " are you 
going to the Fair this afternoon? " 
" " No, Peter, I are n't." 

" But Prudence is going," said I, drying myself vigor- 
ously upon tht towel. 

" And how," inquired the smith, bending in turn above 
the bucket in which we performed our ablutions, " and how 
might you know that, Peter? " 

" Because she told me so." 

" Told you so, did she ? " said George, and immediately 
plunged his head into the bucket. 

" She did," I answered. 

" And supposin'," said George, coming up very red in 
the face, and with the water streaming from his sodden 
curls, " supposin' she is goin' to the Fair, what 's that to 
me ? I don't care wheer she comes, no, nor wheer she goes, 
neither ! " and he shook the water from him as a dog might. 

" Are you quite sure, George? " 

" Ah ! sartin sure. I 've been sure of it now ever since 
she called me — " 

" Pooh, nonsense, man ! she did n't mean it — women — » 
especially young ones — often say things they do not 
mean — at least, so I am given to understand" 



Nearer to End of First Book 205 

" Ay, but she did mean it," said George, frowning and 
nodding his head ; " but it ain't that, Peter, no, it are n't 
that, it 's the knowin' as she spoke truth when she called 
me s coward,' and despisin' me for it in 'er heart, that 's 
wheer it is, Peter." 

" Nevertheless, I 'm sure she never meant it, George." 

" Then let 'er come and tell me so." 

" I don't think she '11 do that," said I. 

" No more do I, Peter." Saying which, he fell to work 
with the towel even as I had done. 

" George," said I after a silence. 

"Well, Peter?" 

" Has it ever struck you that Prudence is an uncom- 
monly handsome girl? " 

" To be sure it 'as, Peter — I were blind else." 

" And that other men may see this too ? " 

"Well, Peter?" 

"And some one — even tell her so? " His answer was 
a long time coming, but come it did at last: 

"Well, Peter?" 

"And — ask her to marry him, George?" This time 
he was silent so long that I had tied my neckerchief and 
drawn on my coat ere he spoke, very heavily and slowly, 
and without looking at me. 

" Why, then, Peter, let 'im. I 've told 'ee afore, I don't 
care wheer she comes nor wheer she goes, she bean't nothin' 
to me no more, nor I to she. If so be some man 'as a 
mind to ax 'er for 'isself, all open an' aboveboard, I say 
again — let 'im. And now, let 's talk o' summat else." 

" Willingly. There 's to be boxing, and single-stick, 
and wrestling at the Fair, I understand." 

" Ay." 

" And, they tell me, there is a famous wrestler coming 
all the way from Cornwall to wrestle the best man for ten 
guineas." 

" Ay, so there be." 

" Well? " 

" Well, Peter? " 



206 The Broad Highway 

"They were talking about it at 'The Bull 5 last 
night — " 

"'The Bull' — to be sure — you was at 'The Bull' 
last night — well? " 

" They were saying that you were a mighty wrestler, 
George, that you were the only man in these parts who 
could stand up to this Cornishman." 

" Ay, I can wrastle a bit, Peter," he replied, speaking 
in the same heavy, listless manner; " what then? " 

" Why then, George, get into your coat, and let 's be 
off." 

"Wheer to?" 

" The Fair." Black George shook his head. 

" What, you won't? " 

" No, Peter." 

"And why not?" 

" Because I are n't got the mind to — because I are n't 
never goin' to wrastle no more, Peter — so theer 's an end 
on 't." Yet, in the doorway I paused and looked back. 

" George." 

"Peter?" 

" Won't you come — for friendship's sake? " 

Black George picked up his coat, looked at it, and put 
it down again. 

"No, Peter!" 



CHAPTER XXXIV 

WHICH DESCRIBES SUNDRY HAPPENINGS AT THE FAIR, 
AND ENDS THIS FIRST BOOK 

" I say, young cove, where are you a-pushing of ? " 

The speaker was a very tall individual whose sharp- 
pointed elbow had, more than once, obtruded itself into 
my ribs. He was extremely thin and bony, with a long, 
drooping nose set very much to one side, and was pos- 
sessed of a remarkable pair of eyes — that is to say, one 
eyelid hung continually lower than the other, thus lending 
to his otherwise sinister face an air of droll and unexpected 
waggery that was quite startling to behold. 

All about us were jostling throngs of men and women 
in snowy smock frocks, and holiday gowns, who pushed, or 
were pushed, laughed, or frowned, according to their sev- 
eral natures ; while above the merry hubbub rose the blare 
of trumpets, the braying of horns, and the crash, and 
rattle of drums — in a word, I was in the middle of an 
English Country Fair. 

" Now then, young cove," repeated the man I have 
alluded to, " where are you a-pushing of ? Don't do it 
again, or mind your eye ! " And, saying this, he glared 
balefully at me with one eye and leered jocosely with the 
other, and into my ribs came his elbow again. 

" You seem to be able to do something in that way your- 
self," I retorted. 

"Oh — do I?" 

" Yes," said I ; " suppose you take your elbow out of 
my waistcoat." 



208 The Broad Highway 

" ' Elber,' " repeated the man, " what d' ye mean by 
'elber'?" 

" This," said I, catching his arm in no very gentle grip. 

" If it 's a fight you 're wantin' — " began the man. 

"It is n't!" said I. 

" Then leggo my arm ! " 

" Then keep your elbow to yourself." 

" 'Cod ! I never see such a hot-headed cove ! " 

" Nor I a more bad-tempered one." 

This altercation had taken place as we swayed to and 
fro in the crowd, from which we now slowly won free, owing 
chiefly to the dexterous use of the man's bony elbows, until 
we presently found ourselves in a veritable jungle of carts 
and wagons of all kinds and sorts, where we stopped, fac- 
ing each other. 

" I 'm inclined to think, young cove, as you 'd be short- 
tempered if you been shied at by your feller-man from your 
youth up," said the man. 

" What do you mean by ' shied at ' ? " 

" What I sez ! — some perfessions is easy, and some is 
'ard — like mine." 

" And what is yours ? " 

"I'm a perfessional Sambo." 

"A what?" 

" Well — a c Nigger-head ' then, — blacks my face — i 
sticks my 'ead through a 'ole, and lets 'em shy at me — 
three shies a penny — them as 'its me gets a cigar — a 
big 'un — them as don't — don't ! " 

" Yours is a very unpleasant profession," said I, 

" A man must live ! " 

" But," said I, " supposing you get hit? " 

" Them as 'its me gets a cigar ! " 

"Doesn't it hurt you?" 

" Oh ! you gets used to it — though, to be sure, they 
don't 'it me very often, or it would be a loss; cigars is 
expensive — leastways, they costs money." 

" But surely a wooden image would serve your turn just 
as well." 



Happenings at the Fair 209 

" A wooden image ! " exclaimed the man disgustedly. 
u James ! — you must be a fool, you must ! Who wants 
to throw at a wooden image — you can't 'urt a wooden 
image, can you — if you throwed 'eavens 'ard at a wooden 
image that there wooden image would n't flinch, would it ? 
When a man throws at anything 'e likes to 'it it — that 's 
'uman — and when 'e 'its it 'e likes to see it flinch — that 's 
'uman too, and when it flinches, why — 'e rubs 'is 'ands, 
and takes another shot — and that 's the 'umanest of all. 
So you see, young cove, you 're a fool with your wooden 
image." 

Now, as he ended, I stooped, very suddenly, and caught 
hold of his wrist — and then I saw that he held my purse 
in his hand. It was a large hand with bony knuckles, and 
very long fingers, upon one of which was a battered ring. 
He attempted, at first, to free himself of my grip, but, 
finding this useless, stood glowering at me with one eye 
and leering with the other. 

"Ha! "said I. 

"Hallo!" said he. 

" A purse ! " said I. 

" Why, so it is," he nodded ; " leastways, it looks un- 
commonly like one, don't it? " 

" What 's more, it looks like mine ! " 

" Does it? " 

" I could swear to it anywhere." 

" Could you? " 

" I could." 

" Then pVaps you 'd better take it, young cove, and 
very welcome, I 'm sure." 

" So you 've been picking my pocket ! " said I. 

" Never picked a pocket in my life — should scorn to." 

I put away my recovered property, and straightway 
shifted my grip to the fellow's collar. 

" Now," said I, " come on." 

" Why, what are you a-doing of? " 

" What does one generally do with a pickpocket ? " 

But I had hardly uttered the words when, with a sudden 



210 The Broad Highway 

cunning twist, he broke my hold, and, my foot catching 
in a guy-rope, I tripped, and fell heavily, and ere I could 
rise he had made good his escape. I got to my feet, some- 
what shaken by the fall, yet congratulating myself on the 
recovery of my purse, and, threading my way among the 
tents, was soon back among the crowd. Here were circuses 
and shows of all kinds, where one might behold divers 
strange beasts, the usual Fat Women and Skeleton Men 
(who ever heard of the order being reversed?) ; and be- 
fore the shows were fellows variously attired, but each 
being purplish of visage, and each possessing the lungs 
of a Stentor — more especially one, a round-bellied, bottle- 
nosed fellow in a white hat, who alternately roared and 
beat upon a drum — a red-haired man he was, with a fiery 
eye, which eye, chancing to single me out in the crowd, 
fixed itself pertinaciously upon me, thenceforth, so that he 
seemed to address himself exclusively to me, thus: 

" O my stars! [young man]." (Bang goes the drum.) 
" The wonderful wild, 'airy, and savage man from Bon- 
hoola, as eats snakes alive, and dresses hisself in sheeny 
serpents! O my eye! step up! [young man]." (Bang!) 
" Likewise the ass-tonishin' and beautiful Lady Paulino- 
lotti, as will swaller swords, sabres, bay'nets, also chewin' 
up glass, and bottles quicker than you can wink [young 
man]." (Bang!) "Not to mention Catamaplasus, the 
Fire Fiend, what burns hisself with red-hot irons, and likes 
it, drinks liquid fire with gusto — playfully spittin' forth 
the same, together with flame and sulphurous smoke, and all 
for sixpence [young man]." (Bang !) " O my stars ! step 
up [young man] and all for a tanner." (Bang!) 

Presently, his eye being off me for the moment, I edged 
my way out of the throng and so came to where a man 
stood mounted upon a cart. Beside him was a fellow in 
a clown's habit who blew loudly three times upon a trum- 
pet, which done, the man took off his hat and began to 
harangue the crowd, something in this wise: 

" I come before you, ladies and gentlemen, not for vulgar 
gain — or, as I might say — kudos, which is Eyetalian 



Happ< 



•enings at the Fair 211 

for the same — not to put my hands into your pockets 
and rifle 'em of your honestly earned money; no, I come 
before you for the good of each one of you, for the easing 
of suffering mankind — as I might say — the ha-meliora- 
tion of stricken humanity. In a word, I am here to intro- 
duce to you what I call my Elixir Anthropos — Anthropos, 
ladies and gentlemen, is an old and very ancient Egyptian 
word meaning man — or woman, for that matter," etc. 

During this exordium I had noticed a venerable man in 
a fine blue surtout and a wide-brimmed hat, who sat upon 
the shaft of a cart and puffed slowly at a great pipe. 
And as he puffed, he listened intently to the quack-salver's 
address, and from time to time his eyes would twinkle and 
his lips curve in an ironic smile. The cart, upon the shaft 
of which he sat, stood close to a very small, dirty, and 
disreputable-looking tent, towards which the old gentle- 
man's back was turned. Now, as I watched, I saw the 
point of a knife gleam through the dirty canvas, which, 
vanishing, gave place to a hand protruded through the slit 
thus made — a very large hand with bony knuckles, and 
long fingers, upon one of which was a battered ring. For 
an instant the hand hovered undecidedly, then darted for- 
ward — the long skirts of the old gentleman's coat hardly 
stirred, yet, even as I watched, I saw the hand vanish with 
a fat purse in its clutches. 

Skirting the tent, I came round to the opening, and 
stooping, peered cautiously inside. There, sure enough, 
was my pickpocket gazing intently into the open purse, 
and chuckling as he gazed. Then he slipped it into his 
pocket, and out he came — where I immediately pinned 
him by the neckerchief. 

And, after a while, finding he could not again break my 
hold, he lay still, beneath me, panting, and, as he lay, hi? one 
eye glared more balefully and his other leered more wag- 
gishly than ever, as I, thrusting my hand into his pocket, 
took thence the purse, and transferred it to my own. 

" Halves, mate ! " he panted, " halves, and we 11 cry 
c quits.' " 



212 The Broad Highway 

" By no means," said I, rising to my feet, but keeping 
my grip upon him. 

" Then what 's your game ? " 

" I intend to hand you over as a pickpocket." 

" That means 6 Transportation ' ! " said he, wiping the 
blood from his face, for the struggle, though short, had 
been sharp enough. 

"Well?" said I. 

" It '11 go 'ard with the babby." 

" Baby ! " I exclaimed. 

" Ah ! — or the hinf ant, if you like it better — one as I 
found in a shawl, a-laying on the steps o' my van one night, 
sleeping like a alderman — and it were snowing too." 

"Yet you are a thief!" 

" We calls it < faking.' " 

" And ought to be given up to the authorities." 

" And who 's to look arter the babby? " 

" Are you married? " 

" No." 

"Where is the baby?" 

" In my van." 

"And where is that?" 

" Yonder ! " and he pointed to a gayly-painted caravan 
that stood near by. " 'E 's asleep now, but if you 'd like 
to take a peep at 'im — " 

" I should," said I. Whereupon the fellow led me to 
his van, and, following him up the steps, I entered a place 
which, though confined, was wonderfully neat and clean, 
with curtains at the open windows, a rug upon the floor, 
and an ornamental brass lamp pendent from the roof. At 
the far end was a bed, or rather, berth, curtained with 
chintz, and upon this bed, his chubby face pillowed upon 
a dimpled fist, lay a very small man indeed. And, looking 
up from him to the very large, bony man, bending over 
him, I surprised a look upon the hardened face — a ten- 
derness that seemed very much out of place. 

" Nice and fat, ain't 'e? " said the man, touching the 
baby's apple-like cheek with a grimy finger. 



Happenings at the Fair 2 1 3 

" Yes." 

" Ah — and so 'e should be, James ! But you should 
see 'im eat, a alderman 's nothing to Lewis — I calls 'im 
Lewis, for 't were at Lewisham I found 'im, on a Christ- 
mas Eve — snowing it was, but, by James ! it did n't 
bother 'im — not a bit." 

" And why did you keep him? — there was the parish." 

" Parish ! " repeated the man bitterly. " I were brought 
up by the parish myself — and a nice j ob they made o' 
me!" 

" Don't you find him a great trouble ? " 

" Trouble ! " exclaimed the man. " Lewis ain't no 
trouble — not a bit — never was, and he 's great com- 
pany when I 'm on the move from one town to another — 
laming to talk a'ready." 

" Now," said I, when we had descended from the van, 
" I propose to return this purse to the owner, if he is to be 
found ; if not, I shall hand it to the proper authorities." 

" Walker ! " exclaimed the man. 

" You shall yourself witness the restitution," said I, 
unheeding his remark, " after which — " 

" Well ! " said he, glancing back toward his caravan, and 
moistening his lips as I tightened my grip upon his arm, 
" what about me? " 

" You can go — for Lewis's sake — if you will give me 
your word to live honestly henceforth." 

" You have it, sir — I swear it — on the Bible if you 
like." 

" Then let us seek the owner of this purse." So, coming 
in a while to where the quack doctor was still holding forth 
— there, yet seated upon the shaft of the cart, puffing at 
his great pipe, was the venerable man. At sight of him the 
pickpocket stopped and caught my arm. 

" Come, master," said he, " come, you never mean to 
give up all that good money — there 's fifty guineas, and 
more, in that purse ! " 

" All the more reason to return it," said I. 

" No, don't — don't go a-wasting good money like that 



214 The Broad Highway 

— it 's like throwing it away ! " But shaking off the 
fellow's importunate hand, I approached, and saluted the 
venerable man. 

" Sir," said I, " you have had your pocket picked." 

He turned and regarded me with a pair of deep-set, very 
bright eyes, and blew a whiff of smoke slowly into the air. 

" Sir," he replied, " I found that out five minutes ago." 

" The fact seems to trouble you very little," said I. 

" There, sir, being young, and judging exteriorly, you 
are wrong. There is recounted somewhere in the classics 
an altogether incredible story of a Spartan youth and a 
fox: the boy, with the animal hid beneath his cloak, pre- 
served an unruffled demeanor despite the animal's tearing 
teeth, until he fell down and died. In the same way, young 
sir, no man can lose fifty-odd guineas from his pocket and 
remain unaffected by the loss." 

" Then, sir," said I, " I am happy to be able to return 
your purse to you." He took it, opened it, glanced over 
its contents, looked at me, took out two guineas, looked at 
me again, put the money back, closed the purse, and, drop- 
ping it into his pocket, bowed his acknowledgment. Hav- 
ing done which, he made room for me to sit beside him. 

" Sir," said he, chuckling, " hark to that lovely rascal 
in the cart, yonder — hark to him ; Galen was an ass and 
Hippocrates a dunce beside this fellow — hark to him." 

" There 's nothing like pills ! " the Quack-salver was 
saying at the top of his voice ; " place one upon the tip o' 
the tongue — in this fashion — take a drink o' water, 
beer, or wine, as the case may be, give a couple o' swallers, 
and there you are. Oh, there 's nothing in the world like 
pills, and there 's nothing like my Elixir Anthropos for 
coughs, colds, and the rheumatics, for sore throats, sore 
eyes, sore backs — good for the croup, measles, and 
chicken-pox — a certain cure for dropsy, scurvy, and the 
king's evil ; there 's no disease or ailment, discovered or 
invented, as my pills won't soothe, heal, ha-meliorate, and 
charm away, and all I charge is one shilling a box. Hand 
'em round, Jonas." Whereupon the fellow in the clown's 



Happenings at the Fair 215 

dress, stepping down from the cart, began handing out the 
boxes of pills and taking in the shillings as fast as he 
conveniently could. 

" A thriving trade ! " said my venerable companion ; 
" it always has been, and always will, for Humanity is a 
many-headed fool, and loves to be ' bamboozled. 5 These 
honest folk are probably paying for bread pellets com- 
pounded with a little soap, yet will go home, swallow them 
in all good faith, and think themselves a great deal better 
for them." 

" And therefore," said I, " probably derive as much 
benefit from them as from any drug yet discovered." 

" Young man," said my companion, giving me a sharp 
glance, " what do you mean ? " 

" Plainly, sir, that a man who believes himself cured of 
a disease is surely on the high road to recovery." 

" But a belief in the efficacy of that rascal's bread pellets 
cannot make them anything but bread pellets." 

" No," said I, " but it may effect great things with the 
disease." 

" Young man, don't tell me that you are a believer in 
Faith Healing, and such-like tomfoolery ; disease is a great 
and terrible reality, and must be met and overcome by a 
real means." 

" On the contrary, sir, may it not be rather the outcome 
of a preconceived idea — of a belief that has been held 
universally for many ages and generations of men? I do 
not deny disease — who could? but suffering and disease 
have been looked upon from the earliest days as punish- 
ments wrought out upon a man for his sins. Now, may not 
the haunting fear of this retributive justice be greatly re- 
sponsible for suffering and disease of all kinds, since the 
mind unquestionably reacts upon the body? " 

" Probably, sir, probably, but since disease is with us* 
how would you propose to remedy it ? " 

" By disbelieving in it ; by regarding it as something 
abnormal and utterly foreign to the divine order of 
t ings." 



2 1 6 The Broad Highway 

" Pooh ! " exclaimed my venerable companion. " Bah ! 
— quite, quite impracticable ! " 

" They say the same of ' The Sermon on the Mount,' 
sir," I retorted. 

"Can a man, wasting away in a decline, discredit the 
fact that he is dying with every breath he draws ? " 

" Had you, or I, or any man, the Christ-power to teach 
him a disbelief in his sickness, then would he be hale and 
well. The Great Physician healed all diseases thus, with- 
out the aid of drugs, seeking only to implant in the mind 
of each sufferer the knowledge that he was whole and sound 
i — that is to say, a total disbelief in his malady. How 
many times do we read the words : ' Thy faith hath made 
thee whole 9 ? All He demanded of them was faith — or, as 
I say, a disbelief in their disease." 

" Then the cures of Christ were not miracles ? " 

" No more so than any great and noble work is a 
miracle." 

" And do you," inquired my companion, removing his 
pipe from his lips, and staring at me very hard, " do you 
believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God? " 

" Yes," said I, " in the same way that you and I are, and 
the Quack-salver yonder." 

"But was He divine?" 

" Surely a mighty thinker — a great teacher whose hand 
points the higher way, whose words inspire Humanity to 
nobler ends and aims, is, of necessity, divine." 

" You are a very bold young man, and talk, I think, a 
little wildly." 

" Heterodoxy has been styled so before, sir." 

" And a very young, young man." 

" That, sir, will be amended by time." Here, puffing at 
his pipe, and finding it gone out, he looked at me in 
surprise. 

" Remarkable ! " said he. 

"What is, sir?" 

" While I listened to you I have actually let my pipe go 
Out — a thing which rarely happens with me." As he 



Happenings at the Fair 217 

spoke he thrust one hand into his pocket, when he glanced 
slowly all round, and back once more to me. 

" Remarkable ! " said he again. 

"What now, sir?" 

" My purse has gone again ! " 

u What ! — gone ! " I ejaculated. 

" Vanished ! " said he, and, to prove his words, turned 
inside out first one pocket and then the other. 

" Come with me," said I, springing up, " there is yet a 
chance that we may possibly recover it." Forthwith I led 
him to where had stood a certain gayly-painted caravan, but 
it was gone — vanished as utterly as my companion's purse. 

" Most annoying ! " said he, shaking his venerable head, 
" really most exasperating — I particularly wished to se- 
cure a sample of that fellow's pills — the collection of 
quack remedies is a fad of mine — as it is — " 

" My purse is entirely at your disposal, sir," said I, 
" though, to be sure, a very — " But there I stopped, 
staring, in my turn, blankly at him. 

" Ha ? " he exclaimed, his eyes twinkling. 

" Yes," I nodded, " the rascal made off with my purse 
also; we are companions in misfortune." 

" Then as such, young sir, come and dine with me, my 
habitation is but a little way off." 

" Thank you, sir, but I am half expecting to meet with 
certain good friends of mine, though I am none the less 
honored by your offer." 

" So be it, young sir ; then permit me to wish you a very. 
'Good day !' " and, touching the brim of his hat with the long 
stem of his pipe, the Venerable Man turned and left me. 

Howbeit, though I looked diligently on all hands, I saw 
nothing of Simon or the Ancient ; thus evening was falling 
as, bending my steps homeward, I came to a part of the 
Fair where drinking-booths had been set up, and where 
they were preparing to roast an ox whole, as is the im- 
memorial custom. Drinking was going on, with its usual 
accompaniment of boisterous merriment and rough horse- 
play — the vulgarity of which ever annoys me. Two or 



218 The Broad Highway 

-three times I was rudely jostled as I made my way along, 
so that my temper was already something the worse, when, 
turning aside to avoid all this, I came full upon two fel- 
lows, well-to-do farmers, by their look, who held a strug- 
gling girl between them — to each of whom I reached out 
a hand, and, gripping them firmly by their collars, brought 
their two heads together with a sounding crack — and then 
I saw that the girl was Prudence. Next moment we were 
running, hand in hand, with the two fellows roaring in 
pursuit. But Prudence was wonderfully fleet and light of 
foot, wherefore, doubling and turning among carts, tents, 
and booths, we had soon outstripped our pursuers, and rid 
ourselves of them altogether. In spite of which Prudence 
-still ran on till, catching her foot in some obstacle, she 
tripped, and would have fallen but for my arm. 

And looking down into her flushed face, glowing through 
the sweet disorder of her glossy curls, I could not but think 
how lovely she was. But, as I watched, the color fled from 
her cheeks, her eyes dilated, and she started away from me. 

Now, turning hastily, I saw that we were standing close 
by a certain small, dirty, and disreputable-looking tent, 
the canvas of which had been slit with a knife — and my 
movement had been quick enough to enable me to see a face 
vanish through the canvas. And, fleeting though the 
glimpse had been, yet, in the lowering brow, the baleful 
glare of the eye, and the set of the great jaw, I had seen — 
Death. 

And, after we had walked on a while together, looking 
at Prue, I noticed that she trembled. 

" Oh, Mr. Peter," she whispered, glancing back over her 
shoulder, " did ye see? " 

" Yes, Prudence, I saw." And, speaking, I also glanced 
back towards the villainous little tent, and though the face 
appeared no more, I was aware, nevertheless, of a sudden 
misgiving that was almost like a foreboding of evil to come ; 
for in those features, disfigured though they were with 
Hack rage and passion, I had recognized the face of Black 
-George. 



A WORD TO THE READER 

Remembering the very excellent advice of my friend the 
Tinker as to the writing of a good " nov-el," I am per- 
turbed, and not a little discouraged, upon looking over 
these pages, to find that I have, as yet, described no des- 
perate hand-to-hand encounters, no hairbreadth escapes 
(unless a bullet through one's hat may be justly so re- 
garded) , and, above all — not one word of Love ! 

You, sir, who have expectantly borne with me thus far,, 
may be tempted to close the book in a huff, and, hurling 
it from you, with a deep-voiced anathema, clap on your 
hat, and sally forth into the sunshine. 

Or you, madam, breathing a sigh o'er hopes deferred* 
may take up needle, and silk, and turn you, once again, 
to that embroidery which has engaged your dainty fingers 
this twelvemonth and more, yet which, like Penelope's web, 
would seem no nearer completion. 

Ah well, sir ! exercise, especially walking, is highly bene- 
ficial to the liver, they tell me — and nothing, madam, be- 
lieve me (unless it be playing the harp), can show off a 
pretty hand, or the delicate curves of a shapely wrist and 
arm to such advantage as that self-same embroidery. But 
since needlework (like books and all sublunary things) is 
apt to grow monotonous, you may, perchance, for lack of 
better occupation, be driven to address yourself, once more, 
to this, my Narrative. 

And since you, sir, no matter how far you walk, must, 
of necessity, return to your chair and chimney-corner, it 
is possible that, having dined adequately, and lighted your 



220 The Broad Highway 

pipe (and being therefore in a more charitable and tem- 
perate frame of mind), you may lift my volume from the 
dusty corner where it has lain all this while, and (though 
probably with sundry grunts and snorts, indicative that 
the thing is done under protest, as it were) reopen these 
pages. 

In the which hope, dear madam, and you, noble sir, I 
here commence this, my Second Book — which, as you see, 
is headed thus : 

THE WOMAN 



BOOK TWO 
THE WOMAN 



BOOK TWO 

THE WOMAN 

CHAPTER I 

OF STORM, AND TEMPEST, AND OF THE COMING OF 
CHARMIAN 

I was at sea in an open boat. Out of the pitch-black 
heaven there rushed a mighty wind, and the pitch-black 
seas above me rose high, and ever higher, flecked with hiss- 
ing white ; wherefore I cast me face downwards in my little 
boat, that I might not behold the horror of the waters ; 
and above their ceaseless, surging thunder there rose a 
long-drawn cry: 

" Charmian ! " 

I stood upon a desolate moor, and the pitiless rain lashed 
me, and the fierce wind buffeted me ; and, out of the gloom 
where frowning earth and heaven met — there rose a long- 
drawn cry: 

" Charmian." 

I started up in bed, broad awake, and listening ; yet the 
tumult was all about me still — the hiss and beat of rain, 
and the sound of a rushing $_ mighty wind — a wind that 
seemed to fill the earth — a wind that screamed about me, 
that howled above me, and filled the woods, near and far, 
with a deep booming, pierced, now and then, by the splin- 
tering crash of snapping bough or falling tree. And yet, 
somewhere in this frightful pandemonium of sound, blended 
in with it, yet not of it, it seemed to me that the cry still 
faintly echoed: 



224 The Broad Highway 

" Charmian." 

So appalling was all this to my newly-awakened senses, 
that I remained, for a time, staring into the darkness as 
one dazed. Presently, however, I rose, and, donning some 
clothes, mended the fire which still smouldered upon the 
hearth, and, having filled and lighted my pipe, sat down 
to listen to the awful voices of the storm. 

What brain could conceive — what pen describe that 
elemental chorus, like the mighty voice of persecuted Hu- 
manity, past and present, crying the woes and ills, the 
sorrows and torments, endured of all the ages? To-night, 
surely, the souls of the unnumbered dead rode within the 
storm, and this was the voice of their lamentation. 

From the red mire of battlefields are they come, from the 
flame and ravishment of fair cities, from dim and reeking 
dungeons, from the rack, the stake, and the gibbet, to 
pierce the heavens once more with the voice of their agony. 

Since the world was made, how many have lived and 
suffered, and died, unlettered and unsung — snatched by a 
tyrant's whim from life to death, in the glory of the sun, 
in the gloom of night, in blood and flame, and torment? 
Indeed, their name is " Legion." 

But there is a great and awful Book, whose leaves are 
countless, yet every leaf of which is smirched with blood 
and fouled with nameless sins, a record, howsoever brief 
and inadequate, of human suffering, wherein as " through 
a glass, darkly," we may behold horrors unimagined; 
where Murder stalks, and rampant Lust ; where Treachery 
creeps with curving back, smiling mouth, and sudden, 
deadly hand ; where Tyranny, fierce-eyed, and iron-lipped, 
grinds the nations beneath a bloody heel. Truly, man hath 
no enemy like man. And Christ is there, and Socrates, and 
Savonarola — and there, too, is a cross of agony, a bowl 
of hemlock, and a consuming fire. 

Oh, noble martyrs ! by whose blood and agony the world 
is become a purer and better place for us, and those who 
shall come after us — Oh glorious, innumerable host ! thy 
poor, maimed bodies were dust ages since, but thy souls 



The Coming of Charmian 225 

live on in paradise, and thy memory abides, and shall abide 
in the earth, forever. 

Ye purblind, ye pessimists, existing with no hope of a 
resurrection, bethink you of these matters ; go, open the 
great and awful Book, and read and behold these things 
for yourselves — for what student of history is there but 
must be persuaded of man's immortality — that, though 
this poor flesh be mangled, torn asunder, burned to 
ashes, yet the soul, rising beyond the tyrant's reach, 
soars triumphant above death and this sorry world, to 
the refuge of " the everlasting arms ; " for God is a just 
God! 

Now, in a while, becoming conscious that my pipe was 
smoked out and cold, I reached up my hand to my tobacco- 
box upon the mantelshelf. Yet I did not reach it down, 
for, even as my fingers closed upon it, above the wailing of 
the storm, above the hiss and patter of driven rain, there 
rose a long-drawn cry : 

"Charmian!" 

So, remembering the voice I had seemed to hear calling 
in my dream, I sat there with my hand stretched up to my 
tobacco-box, and my face screwed round to the casement 
behind me, that, as I watched, shook and rattled beneath 
each wind-gust, as if some hand strove to pluck it open. 

How long I remained thus, with my hand stretched up 
to my tobacco-box, and my eyes upon this window, I am 
unable to say, but, all at once, the door of the cottage burst 
open with a crash, and immediately the quiet room was full 
of rioting wind and tempest; such a wind as stopped my 
breath, and sent up a swirl of smoke and sparks from the 
fire. And, borne upon this wind, like some spirit of the 
storm, was a woman with flying draperies and long, stream- 
ing hair, who turned, and, with knee and shoulder, forced 
to the door, and so leaned there, panting. 

Tall she was, and nobly shaped, for her wet gown clung, 
disclosing the sinuous lines of her waist and the bold, full 
curves of hip and thigh. Her dress, too, had been wrenched 
and torn at the neck, and, through the shadow of her 



226 The Broad Highway 

fallen hair, I caught the ivory gleam of her shoulder, and 
the heave and tumult of her bosom. 

Here I reached down my tobacco-box and mechanically 
began to fill rny pipe, watching her the while. 

Suddenly she started, and seemed to listen. Then, with 
a swift, stealthy movement, she slipped from before the 
door, and I noticed that she hid one hand behind her. 

"Charmian!" 

The woman crouched back against the wall, with her 
eyes towards the door, and always her right hand was hid- 
den in the folds of her petticoat. So we remained, she 
watching the door, and I, her. 

"Charmian!" 

The voice was very near now, and, almost immediately 
after, there came a loud " view hallo," and a heavy fist 
pounded upon the door. 

" Oh, Charmian, you 're there — yes, yes — inside — I 
know you are. I swore you should never escape me, and 
you sha'n't — by God ! " A hand fumbled upon the latch, 
the door swung open, and a man entered. As he did so 
I leapt forward, and caught the woman's wrist. There was 
a blinding flash, a loud report, and a bullet buried itself 
somewhere in the rafters overhead. With a strange, re- 
pressed cry, she turned upon me so fiercely that I fell back 
before her. 

The newcomer, meantime, had closed the door, latching 
it very carefully, and now, standing before it, folded his 
arms, staring at her with bent head. He was a very tall 
man, with a rain-sodden, bell-crowned hat crushed low 
upon his brows, and wrapped in a long, many-caped over- 
coat, the skirts of which were woefully mired and torn. 
All at once he laughed, very softly and musically. 

" So, you would have killed me, would you, Charmian 
■ — shot me — like a dog? " His tone was soft as his laugh 
and equally musical, and yet neither was good to hear. 
" So you thought you had lost me, did you, when you gave 
me the slip, a while ago? Lose me? Escape me? Why, 
I tell you, I would search for you day and night — hunt 



The Coming of Charmian 227 

the world over until I found you, Charmian — until I found 
you," said he, nodding his head and speaking almost in a 
whisper. " I would, by God ! " 

The woman neither moved nor uttered a word, only her 
breath came thick and fast, and her eyes gleamed in the 
shadow of her hair. 

They stood facing each other, like two adversaries, each 
measuring the other's strength, without appearing to be 
conscious of my presence ; indeed, the man had not so much 
as looked toward me even when I had struck up the pistol. 

Now, with every minute I was becoming more curious 
to see this man's face, hidden as it was in the shadow of 
his dripping hat brim. Yet the fire had burned low. 

" You always were a spitfire, were n't you, Charmian? " 
he went on in the same gentle voice ; " hot, and fierce, and 
proud — the flame beneath the ice — I knew that, and loved 
you the better for it; and so I determined to win you, 
Charmian — to win you whether you would or no. And 

— you are so strong — so tall, and glorious, and strong, 
Charmian ! " 

His voice had sunk to a murmur again, and he drew a 
slow step nearer to her. 

" How wonderful you are, Charmian ! I always loved 
your shoulders and that round, white throat. Loved? 
Worshipped them, worshipped them ! And to-night — " 
He paused, and I felt, rather than saw, that he was smil- 
ing. " And to-night you would have killed me, Charmian 

— shot me — like a dog ! But I would not have it differ- 
ent. You have flouted, coquetted, scorned, and mocked me 
■ — for three years, Charmian, and to-night you would have 
killed me — and I — would not have it otherwise, for surely 
you can see that this of itself must make your final sur- 
render — even sweeter." 

With a gesture utterly at variance with his voice, so 
sudden, fierce, and passionate was it, he sprang toward her 
with outstretched arms. But, quick as he, she eluded him, 
and, before he could reach her, I stepped between them. 

" Sir," said I, " a word with you." 



228 The Broad Highway 

" Out of my way, bumpkin ! " he retorted, and, brushing 
me aside, made after her. I caught him by the skirts of 
his long, loose coat, but, with a dexterous twist, he had 
left it in my grasp. Yet the check, momentary though it 
was, enabled her to slip through the door of that room 
which had once been Donald's, and, before he could reach 
it, I stood upon the threshold. He regarded me for a 
moment beneath his hat brim, and seemed undecided how 
to act. 

" My good fellow," said he at last, " I will buy your 
cottage of you — for to-night — name your price." 

I shook my head. Hereupon he drew a thick purse from 
his pocket, and tossed it, chinking, to my feet. 

" There are two hundred guineas, bumpkin, maybe more 
— pick them up, and — go," and turning, he flung open 
the door. 

Obediently I stooped, and, taking up the purse, rolled 
it in the coat which I still held, and tossed both out of the 
cottage. 

" Sir," said I, " be so very obliging as to follow your 
property." 

" Ah ! " he murmured, " very pretty, on my soul ! " And, 
in that same moment, his knuckles caught me fairly between 
the eyes, and he was upon me swift, and fierce, and lithe 
as a panther. 

I remember the glint of his eyes and the flash of his 
bared teeth, now to one side of me, now to the other, as 
we swayed to and fro, overturning the chairs, and crashing 
into unseen obstacles. In that dim and narrow place small 
chance was there for feint or parry; it was blind, brutal 
work, fierce, and grim, and silent. Once he staggered and 
fell heavily, carrying the table crashing with him, and I 
saw him wipe blood from his face as he rose; and once I 
was beaten to my knees, but was up before he could reach 
me again, though the fire upon the hearth spun giddily 
round and round, and the floor heaved oddly beneath my 
feet. 

Then, suddenly, hands were upon my throat, and I could 



The Coming of Charmian 229 

feel the hot pant of his breath in my face, breath that hissed 
and whistled between clenched teeth. Desperately I strove 
to break his hold, to tear his hands asunder, and could not; 
only the fingers tightened and tightened. 

Up and down the room we staggered, grim and voiceless 
— out through the open door — out into the whirling 
blackness of the storm. And there, amid the tempest, 
lashed by driving rain and deafened by the roaring rush 
of wind, we fought — as our savage forefathers may have 
done, breast to breast, and knee to knee — stubborn and 
wild, and merciless — the old, old struggle for supremacy 
and life. 

I beat him with my fists, but his head was down between 
his arms ; I tore at his wrists, but he gripped my throat 
the tighter ; and now we were down, rolling upon the sod- 
den grass, and now we were up, stumbling and slipping, 
but ever the gripping fingers sank the deeper, choking the 
strength and life out of me. My eyes stared up into a 
heaven streaked with blood and fire, there was the taste 
of sulphur in my mouth, my arms grew weak and nerveless, 
and the roar of wind seemed a thousand times more loud. 
Then — something clutched and dragged us by the feet, 
we tottered, swayed helplessly, and plunged down together. 
But, as we fell, the deadly, gripping fingers slackened for 
a moment, and in that moment I had broken free, and, 
rolling clear, stumbled up to my feet. Yet even then I was 
still encumbered, and, stooping down, found the skirts of 
the overcoat twisted tightly about my foot and ankle. 
Now, as I loosed it, I inwardly blessed that tattered gar- 
ment, for it seemed that to it I owed my life. 

So I stood, panting, and waited for the end. I remem- 
ber a blind groping in the dark, a wild hurly-burly of 
random blows, a sudden sharp pain in my right hand — 
a groan, and I was standing with the swish of the rain 
about me, and the moaning of the wind in the woods beyond. 

How long I remained thus I cannot tell, for I was as 
one in a dream, but the cool rain upon my face refreshed 
me, and the strong, clean wind in my nostrils was wonder- 



230 The Broad Highway 

fully grateful. Presently, raising my arm stiffly, I brushed 
the wet hair from my eyes, and stared round me into the 
pitchy darkness, in quest of my opponent. 

" Where are you ? " said I at last, and this was the first 
word uttered during the struggle ; " where are you ? " 

Receiving no answer, I advanced cautiously (for it was, 
as I have said, black dark), and so, presently, touched 
something yielding with my foot. 

" Come — get up ! " said I, stooping to lay a hand upon 
him, " get up, I say." But he never moved ; he was lying 
upon his face, and, as I raised his head, my fingers en- 
countered a smooth, round stone, buried in the grass, and 
the touch of that stone thrilled me from head to foot with 
sudden dread. Hastily I tore open waistcoat and shirt, 
and pressed my hand above his heart. In that one moment 
I lived an age of harrowing suspense, then breathed a sigh 
of relief, and, rising, took him beneath the arms and began 
to half drag, half carry him towards the cottage. 

I had proceeded thus but some dozen yards or so when, 
during a momentary lull in the storm, I thought I heard 
a faint " Hallo," and looking about, saw a twinkling light 
that hovered to and fro, coming and going, yet growing 
brighter each moment. Setting down my burden, there- 
fore, I hollowed my hands about my mouth, and shouted. 

" This way ! " I called ; " this way ! " 

"Be that you, sir?" cried a man's voice at no great 
distance. 

" This way ! " I called again, " this way ! " The words 
seemed to reassure the fellow, for the light advanced once 
more, and as he came up, I made him out to be a postilion 
by his dress, and the light he carried was the Ian thorn of 
a chaise. 

" Why — sir ! " he began, looking me up and down, by 
the light of his lanthorn, " strike me lucky if I 'd ha' 
knowed ye ! you looks as if — oh, Lord ! " 

" What is it? " said I, wiping the rain from my eyes 
again. The Postilion's answer was to lower his lanthorn 
towards the face of him who lay on the ground between us, 



The Coming of Charmian 231 

and point. Now, looking where he pointed, I started sud- 
denly backwards, and shivered, with a strange stirring of 
the flesh. 

For I saw a pale face with a streak of blood upon the 
cheek — there was blood upon my own; a face framed in 
lank hair, thick and black — as was my own ; a pale, aqui- 
line face, with a prominent nose, and long, cleft chin — even 
as my own. So, as I stood looking down upon this face, 
my breath caught, and my flesh crept, for indeed, I might 
have been looking into a mirror — the face was the face 
of myself. 



CHAPTER II 

THE POSTILION 

" Good Lord ! " exclaimed the Postilion, and fell back a 
step. 

" Well ? " said I, meeting his astonished look as care- 
lessly as I might. 

" Lord love me ! " said the Postilion. 

"What now?" I inquired. 

" I never see such a thing as this 'ere," said he, alter- 
nately glancing from me down to the outstretched figure 
at my feet, " if it 's bewitchments, or only enchantments, 
I don't like it — strike me pink if I do ! " 

" What do you mean ? " 

" Eyes," continued the Postilion slowly and heavily, and 
with his glance wandering still — " eyes, same — nose, 
i-dentical — mouth, when not bloody, same — hair, same 
— figure, same — no, I don't like it — it 's onnat'ral ! tha' 's 
what it is." 

" Come, come," I broke in, somewhat testily, " don't 
stand there staring like a fool — you see this gentleman 
is hurt." 

" Onnat'ral 's the word ! " went on the Postilion, more 
as though speaking his thoughts aloud than addressing 
me, " it 's a onnat'ral night to begin with — seed a many 
bad uns in my time, but nothing to ekal this 'ere, that I 
lost my way are n't to be wondered at ; then him, and her 
a- jumping out o' the chaise and a-running off into the 
thick o' the storm — that 's onnat'ral in the second place ! 
and then, his face, and your face — that 's the most onnat'- 
rallest part of it all — likewise, I never see one man in 



The Postilion 233 



two suits o' clothes afore, nor yet a-standing up, and a-lay- 
ing down both at the same i-dentical minute — onnat'ral 9 € 
the word — and — I 'm a-going." 

" Stop ! " said I, as he began to move away. 

" Not on no account ! " 

" Then I must make you," said I, and doubled my fists. 

The Postilion eyed me over from head to foot, and 
paused, irresolute. 

" What might you be wanting with a peaceable, civil- 
spoke cove like me? " he inquired. 

" Where is your chaise ? " 

" Up in the lane, som'eres over yonder," answered he, 
with a vague jerk of his thumb over his shoulder. 

" Then, if you will take this gentleman's heels we can 
carry him well enough between us — it 's no great 
distance." 

" Easy ! " said the Postilion, backing away again, " easy, 
now — what might be the matter with him, if I might make 
so bold — ain't dead, is he ? " 

" Dead — no, fool ! " I rejoined angrily. 

"Voice like his, too!" muttered the Postilion, backing 
away still farther ; " yes, onnat'ral 's the word — strike me 
dumb if it ain't ! " 

" Come, will you do as I ask, or must I make you? " 

"Why, I ain't got no objection to taking the gent's 
'eels, if that 's all you ask, though mind ye, if ever I see 
such damned onnat'ralness as this 'ere in all my days, why 
: — drownd me ! " 

So, after some delay, I found the overcoat and purse 
(which latter I thrust into the pocket ere wrapping the 
garment about him), and lifting my still unconscious an- 
tagonist between us, we started for the lane ; which we 
eventually reached, with no little labor and difficulty. Here, 
more by good fortune than anything else, we presently 
stumbled upon a chaise and horses, drawn up in the gloom 
of sheltering trees, in which we deposited our limp burden 
as comfortably as might be, and where I made some shift 
to tie up the gash in his brow. 



234 The Broad Highway 

" It would be a fine thing," said the Postilion moodily, 
as I, at length, closed the chaise door, " it would be a nice 
thing if 'e was to go a-dying." 

" By the looks of him," said I, " he will be swearing 
your head off in the next ten minutes or so." 

Without another word the Postilion set the lanthorn 
back in its socket, and swung himself into the saddle. 

"Your best course would be to make for Tonbridge, 
bearing to the right when you strike the high road." 

The Postilion nodded, and, gathering up the reins, 
turned to stare at me once more, while I stood in the 
gleam of the lanthorn. 

"Well?" I inquired. 

" Eyes," said he, rubbing his chin very hard, as one at 
a loss, "eyes, i-dentical — nose, same — mouth, when not 
bloody, same — 'air, same — everything, same — Lord 
love me ! " 

" Pembry would be nearer," said I, " and the sooner he 
is between the sheets the better." 

" Ah ! " exclaimed the Postilion with a slow nod, and 
drawing out the word unduly, " and talking o' sheets and 
beds — what about my second passenger? I started wi' 
two, and 'ere 's only one — what about Number Two — 
what about — 'er? " 

"Her!" I repeated. 

" 'Er as was with 'im — Number One — 'er what was 
a-quarrelling wi' Number One all the way from London — 
'er as run away from Number One into the wood, yonder, 
what about Number Two — 'er? " 

" Why, to be sure — I had forgotten her ! " 

" Forgotten? " repeated the Postilion, " Oh, Lord, yes ! " 
and leaning over, he winked one eye, very deliberately; 
" forgotten 'er — ah ! — to be sure — of course ! " and he 
winked again. 

" What do you mean ? " I demanded, nettled by the 
fellow's manner. 

" Mean ? " said he, " I means as of all the damned on- 
nat'ralness as come on a honest, well-meaning, civil-spoke 



The Postilion 235 

cove — why, I 'm that there cove, so 'elp me ! " Saying 
which, he cracked his whip, the horses plunged forward, 
and, almost immediately, as it seemed, horses, chaise, and 
Postilion had lurched into the black murk of the night and 
vanished. 



CHAPTER ni 

WHICH BEARS AMPLE TESTIMONY TO THE STRENGTH OF 



Considering all that had befallen during the last half- 
hour or so, it was not very surprising, I think, that I 
should have forgotten the very existence of this woman 
Charmian, even though she had been chiefly instrumental 
in bringing it all about, and to have her recalled to my 
recollection thus suddenly (and, moreover, the possibility 
that I must meet with and talk to her) perturbed me 
greatly, and I remained, for some time, quite oblivious to 
wind and rain, all engrossed by the thought of this woman. 

" A dark, fierce, Amazonian creature ! " I told myself, 
who had (abhorrent thought) already attempted one man's 
life to-night; furthermore, a tall woman, and strong (there- 
fore unmaidenly), with eyes that gleamed wild in the 
shadow of her hair. And yet my dismay arose not so 
much from any of these as from the fact that she was a 
woman, and, consequently, beyond my ken. 

Hitherto I had regarded the sex very much from a dis- 
tance, and a little askance, as creatures naturally illogical, 
and given to unreasoning impulse ; delicate, ethereal beings 
whose lives were made up of petty trifles and vanities, who 
were sent into this gross world to be admired, petted, oc- 
casionally worshipped, and frequently married. 

Indeed, my education, in this direction, had been shock- 
ingly neglected thus far, not so much from lack of inclina- 
tion (for who can deny the fascination of the Sex?) as 
for lack of time and opportunity ; for when, as a young 



Strength of the Gentleman's Fists 237 

gentleman of means and great expectations, I should have 
been writing sonnets to the eyebrow of some " ladye fayre," 
or surreptitiously wooing some farmer's daughter, in com- 
mon with my kind, I was hearkening to the plaint of some 
Greek or Roman lover, or chuckling over old Brantome. 

Thus, women were to me practically an unknown quan- 
tity, as yet, and hence it was with no little trepidation that 
I now started out for the cottage, and this truly Amazonian 
Charmian, unless she had disappeared as suddenly as she 
had come (which I found myself devoutly hoping). 

As I went, I became conscious that I was bleeding copi- 
ously above the brow, that my throat was much swollen, 
and that the thumb of my right hand pained exceedingly 
at the least touch; added to which was a dizziness of the 
head, and a general soreness of body, that testified to the 
strength of my opponent's fists. 

On I stumbled, my head bent low against the stinging 
rain, and with uncertain, clumsy feet, for reaction had 
come, and with it a deadly faintness. Twigs swung out 
of the darkness to lash at and catch me as I passed, in- 
visible trees creaked and groaned above and around me, 
and once, as I paused to make more certain of my direc- 
tion, a dim, vague mass plunged down athwart my path 
with a rending crash. 

On I went (wearily enough, and with the faintness grow- 
ing upon me, a sickness that would not be fought down), 
guiding my course by touch rather than sight, until, find- 
ing myself at fault, I stopped again, staring about me 
beneath my hand. Yet, feeling the faintness increase with 
inaction, I started forward, groping before me as I went; 
I had gone but a few paces, however, when I tripped over 
some obstacle, and fell heavily. It wanted but this to 
complete my misery, and I lay where I was, overcome by 
a deadly nausea. 

Now presently, as I lay thus, spent and sick, I became 
aware of a soft glow, a brightness that seemingly played 
all around me, wherefore, lifting my heavy head, I beheld 
a ray of light that pierced the gloom, a long, gleaming 



238 The Broad Highway 

vista jewelled by falling raindrops, whose brilliance was 
blurred, now and then, by the flitting shapes of wind-tossed 
branches. At sight of this my strength revived, and ris- 
ing, I staggered on towards this welcome light, and thus 
I saw that it streamed from the window of my cottage. 
Even then, it seemed, I journeyed miles before I felt the 
latch beneath my fingers, and fumbling, opened the door, 
stumbled in, and closed it after me. 

For a space I stood dazed by the sudden light, and then, 
little by little, noticed that the table and chairs had been 
righted, that the fire had been mended, and that candles 
burned brightly upon the mantel. All this I saw but dimly, 
for there was a mist before my eyes ; yet I was conscious 
that the girl had leapt up on my entrance, and now stood 
fronting me across the table. 

" You ! " said she, in a low, repressed voice — " you? " 

Now, as she spoke, I saw the glitter of steel in her hand. 

" Keep back ! " she said, in the same subdued tone, " keep 
back — I warn you ! " But I only leaned there against 
the door, even as she had done ; indeed, I doubt if I could 
have moved just then, had I tried. And, as I stood thus, 
hanging my head, and not answering her, she stamped 
her foot suddenly, and laughed a short, fierce laugh. 

" So — he has hurt you? " she cried ; " you are all blood 
— it is running down your face — the Country Bumpkin 
has hurt you ! Oh, I am glad ! glad ! glad ! " and she 
laughed again. " I might have run away," she went on 
mockingly, " but you see — I was prepared for you," and 
she held up the knife, " prepared for you — and now — 
you are pale, and hurt, and faint — yes, you are faint — 
the Country Bumpkin has done his work well. I shall not 
need this, after all — see ! " And she flung the knife upon 
the table. 

"Yes — it is better — there," said I, "and I think — 
madam — is — mistaken." 

" Mistaken ? " she cried, with a sudden catch in her 
voice, " what — what do you mean ? " 

" That I — am — the Bumpkin ! " said I. 



Strength of the Gentleman's Fists 239 

Now, as I spoke, a black mist enveloped all things, my 
knees loosened suddenly, and stumbling forward, I sank 
into a chair. 

"lam — very — tired ! " I sighed, and so, as it seemed, 
fell asleep. 



CHAPTER IV 

WHICH, AMONG OTHER MATTERS, HAS TO DO WITH 
BRUISES AND BANDAGES 

She was on her knees beside me, bathing my battered face, 
talking all the while in a soft voice that I thought wonder- 
fully sweet to hear. 

" Poor boy ! " she was saying, over and over again, 
" poor boy ! " And after she had said it, perhaps a dozen 
times, I opened my eyes and looked at her. 

" Madam, I am twenty-five ! " said I. Hereupon, sponge 
in hand, she drew back and looked at me. 

A wonderful face — low-browed, deep-eyed, full-lipped. 
The eyes were dark and swiftly changeful, and there was 
a subtle witchery in the slanting shadow of their lashes. 

" Twenty-five ! " she repeated, " can it really be ? " 

"Why not, madam?" 

"So very young? " 

" Why — "I began, greatly taken aback. " Indeed, 
I — that is — " 

But here she laughed and then she sighed, and sighing, 
shook her head. 

" Poor boy ! " said she, " poor boy ! " And, when I 
would have retorted, she stopped me with the sponge. 

" Your mouth is cut," said she, after a while, " and 
there is a great gash in your brow." 

" But the water feels delicious ! " said I. 

" And your throat is all scratched and swollen ! " 

" But your hands are very gentle and soothing ! " 

" I don't hurt you, then? " 



Bruises and Bandages 241 

" On the contrary, the — the pain is very trifling, thank 
you." 

" Yet you fainted a little while ago." 

" Then it was very foolish of me." 

" Poor — " she hesitated, and looking up at her through 
the trickling water, I saw that she was smiling. 

" — fellow ! " said she. And her lips were very sweet, 
and her eyes very soft and tender — for an Amazon. 

And, when she had washed the blood from my face, she 
went to fetch clean water from where I kept it in a bucket 
in the corner. 

Now, at my elbow, upon the table, lay the knife, a heavy, 
clumsy contrivance I had bought to use in my carpentry, 
and I now, mechanically, picked it up. As I did so the 
light gleamed evilly upon its long blade. 

" Put it down ! " she commanded ; " put it away — it 
is a hateful thing ! " 

" For a woman's hand," I added, " so hideously un- 
f eminine ! " 

" Some men are so hatefully — hideously — mascu- 
line ! " she retorted, her lip curling. " I expected — him 
f — and you are terribly like him." 

" As to that," said I, " I may have the same colored 
eyes and hair, and be something of the same build — " 

" Yes," she nodded, " it was your build, and the color 
of your eyes and hair that — startled me." 

" But, after all," said I, " the similarity is only skin- 
deep, and goes no farther." 

" No," she answered, kneeling beside me again ; " no, 
you are — only twenty-five ! " And, as she said this, her 
eyes were hidden by her lashes. 

" Twenty-five is — twenty-five ! " said I, more sharply 
than before. " Why do you smile? " 

" The water is all dripping from your nose and chin ! — 
stoop lower over the basin." 

" And yet," said I, as well as I could on account of the 
trickling water, for she was bathing my face again, " and 
yet, you must be years younger than I." 



242 The Broad Highway 

" But then, some women always feel older than a man — ; 
more especially if he is hurt." 

" Thank you," said I, " thank you ; with the exception 
of a scratch, or so, I am very well ! " But, as I moved, 
I caught my thumb clumsily against the table-edge, and 
winced with the sudden pain of it. 

" What is it — your hand ? " 

" My thumb." 

" Let me see? " Obediently I stretched out my hand to 
her. 

"Is it broken?" 

" Dislocated, I think." 

" It is greatly swollen ! " 

" Yes," said I, and taking firm hold of it with my left 
hand, I gave it a sudden pull which started the sweat upon 
my temples, but sent it back into joint. 

"Poor — " 

" Well? " said I, as she hesitated. 

" — man ! " said she, and touched the swollen hand very 
tenderly with her fingers. 

" You do not fear me any longer? " 

" No." 

" In spite of my eyes and hair ? " 

" In spite of your eyes and hair — you see, a woman 
knows instinctively whom she must fear and whom not to 
fear." 

"Well?" 

" And you are one I do not fear, and, I think, never 
should." " 

" Hum ! " said I, rubbing my chin, " I am only twenty- 
live!" 

" Twenty-five is — twenty-five ! " said she demurely. 

" And yet, I am very like — him — you said so your- 
self!" 

" Him ! " she exclaimed, starting. " I had forgotten all 
about him. Where is he — what has become of him? " and 
she glanced apprehensively towards the door. 

" Half way to Tonbridge — or should be by now." 



Bruises and Bandages 243 

" Tonbridge ! " said she, in a tone of amazement, and 
turned to look at me again. 

" Tonbridge ! " I repeated. 

" But he is not the man to — to run away," said she 
doubtfully — " even from you." 

" No, indeed ! " said I, shaking my head, " he certainly 
did not run away, but circumstances — and a stone, were 
too much — even for him." 

"A stone?" 

" Upon which he — happened to fall, and strike his head 
— very fortunately for me." 

" Was he — much hurt ? " 

" Stunned only," I answered. 

She was still kneeling beside my chair, but now she sat 
back, and turned to stare into the fire. And, as she sat, 
I noticed how full and round and white her arms were, 
for her sleeves were rolled high, and that the hand, which 
yet held the sponge, was likewise very white, neither big 
nor little, a trifle wide, perhaps, but with long, slender 
fingers. Presently, with a sudden gesture, she raised her 
head and looked at me again — a long, searching look. 

" Who are you ? " she asked suddenly. 

" My name," said I, " is Peter." 

" Yes," she nodded, with her eyes still on mine. 

" Peter — Smith," I went on, " and, by that same token, 
I am a blacksmith — very humbly at your service." 

" Peter — Smith ! " she repeated, as though trying the 
sound of it, hesitating at the surname exactly as I had 
done. " Peter — Smith ! — and mine is Charmian, Char- 
mian — Brown." And here again was a pause between the 
two names. 

" Yours is a very beautiful name," said I, " especially 
the Charmian ! " 

" And yours," she retorted, " is a beautifully — ugly 
one!" 

"Yes?" 

" Especially the — Peter ! " 

" Indeed, I quite agree with you," said I, rising, " and 



244 The Broad Highway 

now, if I may trouble you for the towel — thank you ! " 
Forthwith I began to dry my face as well as I might on 
account of my injured thumb, while she watched me with 
a certain elusive merriment peeping from her eyes, and 
quivering at me round her lips, an expression half mock- 
ing, half amused, that I had seen there more than once 
already. Wherefore, to hide from her my consciousness 
of this, I fell to towelling myself vigorously, so much so, 
that, forgetting the cut in my brow, I set it bleeding 
faster than ever. 

" Oh, you are very clumsy ! " she cried, springing up, and, 
snatching the towel from me, she began to stanch the blood 
with it. " If you will sit down, I will bind it up for you." 

" Really, it is quite unnecessary," I demurred. 

" Quite ! " said she ; " is there anything will serve as a 
bandage? " 

" There is the towel ! " I suggested. 

"Not to be thought of!" 

" Then you might tear a strip off the sheet," said I, 
nodding towards the bed. 

" Ridiculous ! " said she, and proceeded to draw a hand- 
kerchief from the bosom of her dress, and having folded it 
with great nicety and moistened it in the bowl, she tied 
it about my temples. 

Now, to do this, she had, perforce, to pass her arms 
about my neck, and this brought her so near that I could 
feel her breath upon my lips, and there stole to me, out 
of her hair, or out of her bosom, a perfume very sweet, 
that was like the fragrance of violets at evening. But her 
hands were all too dexterous, and, quicker than it takes 
to write, the bandage was tied, and she was standing 
before me, straight and tall. 

" There — that is more comfortable, is n't it ? " she in- 
quired, and with the words she bestowed a final little pat 
to the bandage, a touch so light — so ineffably gentle — 
that it might almost have been the hand of that long-dead 
mother whom I had never known. " That is better, is n't 
it? " she demanded. 



Bruises and Bandages 245 

" Thank you — yes, very comfortable ! " said I. But, 
as the word left me, my glance, by accident, encountered 
the pistol near by, and at sight of it a sudden anger came 
upon me, for I remembered that, but for my intervention, 
this girl was a murderess ; wherefore, I would fain have 
destroyed the vile thing, and reached for it impulsively, 
but she was before me, and snatching up the weapon, hid 
it behind her as she had done once before. 

" Give it to me," said I, frowning, " it is an accursed 
thing!" 

" Yet it has been my friend to-night," she answered. 

" Give it to me ! " I repeated. She threw up her head, 
and regarded me with a disdainful air, for my tone had 
been imperative. 

" Come," said I, and held out my hand. So, for a 
while, we looked into each other's eyes, then, all at once, 
ske dropped the weapon on the table before me and turned 
her back to me. 

" I think — " she began, speaking with her back still 
turned to me. 

"Well?" said I. 

" — that you have — " 

" Yes? " said I. 

" — very unpleasant — eyes ! " 

" I am very sorry for that," said I, dropping the 
weapon out of sight behind my row of books, having done 
which, I drew both chairs nearer the fire, and invited her 
to sit down. 

" Thank you, I prefer to stand," said she loftily. 

" As you will," I answered, but, even while I spoke, she 
seemed to change her mind, for she sank into the nearest 
chair, and, chin in hand, stared into the fire. 

" And so," said she, as I sat down opposite her, " and 
so your name is Peter Smith, and you are a blacksmith? " 

" Yes, a blacksmith." 

" And make horseshoes ? " 

" Naturally, yes." 

" And do you live here? " 



246 The Broad Highway 

" Yes." 

"Alone?" 

"Quite alone!" 

" And how long have you lived here alone? " 

" Not so long that I am tired of it." 

" And is this cottage yours ? " 

" Yes — that is, it stands on the Sefton estates, I be- 
lieve, but nobody hereabouts would seem anxious to dis- 
pute my right of occupying the place." 

"Why not?" 

" Because it is generally supposed to be haunted." 

"Oh!" 

" It was built by some wanderer of the roads," I ex- 
plained, " a stranger to these parts, who lived alone here, 
and eventually died alone here." 

"Died here?" 

" Hanged himself on the staple above the door, yonder." 

" Oh ! " said she again, and cast a fearful glance towards 
the deep-driven, rusty staple. 

" The country folk believe his spirit still haunts the 
place," I went on, " and seldom, or never, venture foot 
within the Hollow." 

" And are you not afraid of this ghost? " 

" No," said I. 

" It must be very lonely here." 

" Delightfully so." 

" Are you so fond of solitude? " 

" Yes, for solitude is thought, and to think is to live." 

" And what did you do with the — pistol? " 

" I dropped it out of sight behind my books yonder." 

" I wonder why I gave it to you." 

" Because, if you remember, I asked you for it." 

" But I usually dislike doing what I am asked, and your 
manner was — scarcely courteous." 

" You also objected to my eyes, I think? " 

" Yes," she nodded. 

"Hum!" said I. 

The dark night, outside, was filled with malignant 



Bruises and Bandages 247 

demons now, who tore at the rattling casements, who 
roared and bellowed down the chimney, or screamed furi- 
ously round the cottage; but here, in the warm firelight, 
I heeded them not at all, watching, rather, this woman, 
where she sat, leaned forward, gazing deep into the glow. 
And where the light touched her hair it woke strange fires, 
red and bronze. And it was very rebellious hair, with little 
tendrils that gleamed, here and there, against her temples, 
and small, defiant curls that seemed to strive to hide be- 
hind her ear, or, bold and wanton, to kiss her snowy neck 
— out of sheer bravado. 

As to her dress, I, little by little, became aware of two 
facts, for whereas her gown was of a rough, coarse mate- 
rial such as domestic servants wear, the stockinged foot 
that peeped at me beneath its hem (her shoes were drying 
on the hearth) was clad in a silk so fine that I could catch, 
through it, the gleam of the white flesh beneath. From 
this apparent inconsistency I deduced that she was of edu- 
cated tastes, but poor — probably a governess, or, more 
likely still, taking her hands into consideration, with their 
long, prehensile fingers, a teacher of music, and was going 
on to explain to myself her present situation as the 
outcome of Beauty, Poverty, and the Devil, when she 
sighed, glanced toward the door, shivered slightly, and 
reaching her shoes from the hearth prepared to slip 
them on. 

" They are stll very wet ! " said I deprecatingly. 

" Yes," she answered. 

" Listen to the wind ! " said I. 

" It is terribly high." 

" And it rains very hard ! " said I. 

M Yes," and she shivered again. 

" It will be bad travelling for any one to-night," said I. 

Charmian stared into the fire. 

" Indeed, it would be madness for the strongest to stir 
abroad on such a night." 

Charmian stared into the fire. 

" What with the wind and the rain the roads would be 



248 The Broad Highway 

utterly impassable, not to mention the risks of falling 
trees or shattered boughs." 

Charmian shivered again. 

" And the inns are all shut, long ago ; to stir out, there- 
fore, would be the purest folly." 

Charmian stared into the fire. 

" On the other hand, here are a warm room, a good fire, 
and a very excellent bed." 

She neither spoke nor moved, only her eyes were raised 
.suddenly and swiftly to mine. 

" Also," I continued, returning her look, " here, most 
convenient to your hand, is a fine sharp knife, in case you 
are afraid of the ghost or any other midnight visitant — 
and so — good night, madam ! " Saying which, I took up 
one of the candies and crossed to the door of that room 
which had once been Donald's, but here I paused to 
glance back at her. " Furthermore," said I, snuffing my 
candle with great nicety, " madam need have no further 
qualms regarding the color of my hair and eyes — none 
whatever." 

Whereupon I bowed somewhat stiffly on account of my 
bruises, and, going into my chamber, closed the door 
behind me. 

Having made the bed (for since Donald's departure I 
had occupied my two beds alternately) I undressed slowly, 
for my thumb was very painful; also I paused frequently 
to catch the sound of the light, quick footstep beyond the 
door, and the whisper of her garments as she walked. 

" Charmian ! " said I to myself when at length all was 
still, " Charmian ! " And I blew out my candle. 

Outside, the souls of the unnumbered dead still rode the 
storm, and the world was filled with their woeful lamenta- 
tion. But, as I lay in the dark, there came to me a faint 
perfume as of violets at evening-time, elusive and very 
sweet, breathing of Charmian herself; and putting up my 
hand, I touched the handkerchief that bound my brow. 

" Charmian ! " said I to myself again, and so, fell asleep. 



CHAPTER V 

EN WHICH I HEAR ILL NEWS OF GEORGE 

The sun was pouring in at my lattice when I awoke next 
morning to a general soreness of body that at first puzzled 
me to account for. But as I lay in that delicious state 
between sleeping and waking, I became aware of a faint y 
sweet perfume; and, turning my head, espied a handker- 
chief upon the pillow beside me. And immediately I came 
tO my elbow, with my eyes directed to the door, for now 
indeed I remembered all, and beyond that door, sleeping 
or waking, lay a woman. 

In the early morning things are apt to lose something 
of the glamour that was theirs over night ; thus I remained 
propped upon my elbow, gazing apprehensively at the 
door, and with my ears on the stretch, hearkening for any 
movement from the room beyond that should tell me she 
was up. But I heard only the early chorus of the birds 
and the gurgle of the brook, swollen with last night's rain. 
In a while I rose and began to dress somewhat awkwardly, ob 
account of my thumb, yet with rather more than my usual 
care, stopping occasionally to hear if she was yet astir. 
Being at last fully dressed, I sat down to wait until I should 
hear her footstep. But I listened vainly, for minute after 
minute elapsed until, rising at length, I knocked softly. 
And having knocked thrice, each time louder than before y 
without effect, I lifted the latch and opened the door. 

My first glance showed me that the bed had never even 
been slept in, and that save for myself the place was 
empty. And yet the breakfast-table had been neatly set. 
though with but one cup and saucer. 



250 The Broad Highway 

Now, beside this cup and saucer was one of my few 
books, and picking it up, I saw that it was my Virgil. 
Upon the fly-leaf, at which it was open, I had, years ago, 
scrawled my name thus: 

Peter Vibart 

But lo! close under this, written in a fine Italian hand, 
were the following words: 

"To Peter Smith, Esq. [the "Smith" underlined] Blacksmith. 
Charmian Brown [*' Brown " likewise underlined] desires 
to thank Mr. Smith, yet because thanks are so poor and 
small, and his service so great, needs must she remem- 
ber him as a gentleman, yet oftener as a blacksmith, 
and most of all, as a man. Charmian Brown begs him 
to accept this little trinket in memory of her; it is all she 
has to offer him. He may also keep her handkerchief." 

Upon the table, on the very spot where the book had 
lain, was a gold heart-shaped locket, very quaint and old- 
fashioned, upon one side of which was engraved the follow- 
ing posy: 

" Hee who myne heart would keepe for long 
Shall be a gentil man and strong." 

Attached to the locket was a narrow blue riband, where- 
fore, passing this riband over my head, I hung the locket 
about my neck. And having read through the message 
once more, I closed the Virgil, and, replacing it on the 
shelf, set about brewing a cup of tea, and so presently sat 
down to breakfast. 

I had scarcely done so, however, when there came a 
timid knock at the door, whereat I rose expectantly, and 
immediately sat down again. 

" Come in ! " said I. The latch was slowly raised, the 
door swung open, and the Ancient appeared. If I was 
surprised to see him at such an hour, he was even more so, 
far, at sight of me, his mouth opened, and he stood staring 
speechlessly, leaning upon his stick. 

" Why, Ancient," said I, " you are early abroad this 
morning ! " 



I Hear 111 News of George 251 

" Lord ! " he exclaimed, scarcely above a whisper. 

" Come in and sit down," said I. 

" Lord ! Lord ! " he murmured, " an' a-eatin' 'is break- 
fus' tu. Lordy, Lord ! " 

" Yes," I nodded, " and, such as it is, you are heartily 
welcome to share it — sit down," and I drew up my other 
chair. 

" A-eatin' 'is breakfus' as ever was ! " repeated the old 
xtfan, without moving. 

" And why not, Ancient? " 

" Why not ? " he repeated disdainfully. " 'Cause break- 
f'is' can't be ate by a corp', can it? " 

" A corpse, Ancient ; what do you mean ? " 

" I means as a corp' are n't got no right to eat a break- 
fus' — no ! " 

" Why, I — no, certainly not." 

" Consequently, you aren't a corp', you'll be tellin* 
me." 

"I? — no, not yet, God be thanked ! " 

" Peter," said the Ancient, shaking his head, and mop- 
ping his brow with a corner of his neckerchief, " you du 
be forever a-givin' of me turns, that ye du." 

"Do I, Ancient?" 

" Ay — that ye du, an' me such a aged man tu — such 
a very aged man. I wonders at ye, Peter, an' me wi' my 
white 'airs — oh, I wonders at ye ! " said he, sinking into 
the chair I had placed for him and regarding me with a 
stern, reproving eye. 

" If you will tell me what I have been guilty of — " I 
began. 

" I come down 'ere, Peter — so early as it be, tu — I 
come down 'ere to look for your corp', arter the storm an' 
what 'appened last night. I comes down 'ere, and what 
does I find? — I finds ye a-eatin' your breakfus' — just 
as if theer never 'ad n't been no storm at all — no, nor 
nothin' else." 

" I 'm sure," said I, pouring out a second cup of tea, 
" I 'm sure I would sooner you should find my corpse than 



2 $2 The Broad Highway 

any one else, and am sorry to have disappointed you 
again, but really, Ancient — " 

" Oh, it are n't the disapp'intment, Peter — I found one 
corp', an' that 's enough, I suppose, for an aged man like 
me — no, it are n't that — it 's findin' ye eatin' your 
breakfus' — just as if theer 'ad n't been no storm — no, 
nor yet no devil, wi' 'orns an' a tail, a-runnin' up an' down 
in the 'Oiler 'ere, an' a-roarin' an' a-bellerin', as John 
Pringle said, last night." 

"Ah! and what else did John Pringle say?" I in- 
quired, setting down my cup. 

" Why, 'e come into ' The Bull ' all wet an' wild-like, an' 
wi' 'is two eyes a-stickin' out like gooseberries ! 'E 
comes a-bustin' into the ' tap ' — an' never says a word 
till 'e 's emptied Old Amos's tankard — that bein' nighest. 
Then — ' By Goles ! ' says 'e, lookin' round on us all, ' by 
Goles! I jest seen the ghost!' 'Ghost!' says all on us, 
sittin' up, ye may be sure, Peter. ' Ay,' says John, lookin' 
over 'is shoulder, scared-like, ' seed un wi' my two eyes, 
I did, an' what 's more, I heerd un tu! ' ' Wheer? ' says 
all on us, beginnin' to look over our shoulders likewise. 
6 Wheer ? ' says John, ' wheer should I see un but in that 
theer ghashly 'Oiler. I see a light, fust of all, a-leapin' 
an' a-dancin' about 'mong the trees — ah ! an' I 'eerd 
shouts as was enough to curdle a man's good blood.' 
'Pooh! what's lights?' says Joel Amos, cockin' 'is eye 
into 'is empty tankard ; ' that bean't much to frighten 
a man, no, nor shouts neither.' 'Aren't it?' says John 
Pringle, fierce-like ; ' what if I tell ye the place be full o' 
flamin' fire — what if I tell ye I see the devil 'isself , all 
smoke, an' sparks, an' brimston' a-floatin' an' a-flyin', an' 
draggin' a body through the tops o' the trees ? ' ' Lord ! ' 
says everybody, an' well they might, Peter, an' nobody 
says nothin' for a while. ' I wonder,' says Joel Amos at 
last, ' I wonder who 'e was a-draggin' through the tops 
o' the trees — an' why ? ' ' That '11 be poor Peter bein' 
took away,' says I, ' I '11 go an' find the poor lad's corp' 
in the mornm* ' — an' 'ere I be." 



I Hear 111 News of George 253 

" And you find me not dead, after all your trouble," 
said I. 

" If," said the Ancient, sighing, " if your arms was 
broke, or your legs was broke, now — or if your 'air was 
singed, or your face all burned an' blackened wi' sulphur, 
I could ha' took it kinder; but to find ye a-stttin' eatin' 
an' drinkin' — it are n't what I expected of ye, Peter, 
no." Shaking his head moodily, he took from his hat his 
never-failing snuff-box, but, having extracted a pinch, 
paused suddenly in the act of inhaling it, to stare at me 
very hard. " But," said he, in a more hopeful tone, " but 
your face be all bruised an' swole up, to be sure, Peter." 

"Is it, Ancient?" 

" Ah ! that it be — that it be," he cried, his eyes bright- 
ening, " an' your thumb all bandaged tu." 

" Why, so it is, Ancient." 

" An' — Peter — ! " The pinch of snuff fell, and made 
a little brown cloud on the snow of his smock-frock as he 
rose, trembling, and leaned towards me, across the table. 

" Well, Ancient? " 

"Your throat — !" 

"Yes — what of it?" 

" It — be all marked — scratched it be — tore, as if 
— as if — claws 'ad been at it, Peter, long — sharp — 
claws ! " 

"Is it, Ancient?" 

" Peter — oh, Peter ! " said he, with a sudden quaver in 
his voice, " who was it — what was it, Peter ? " and he 
laid a beseeching hand upon mine. " Peter ! " His voice 
had sunk almost to a whisper, and the hand plucked trem- 
ulously at my sleeve, while in the wrinkled old face was a. 
look of pitiful entreaty. " Oh, Peter ! oh, lad ! 't were Old 
Nick as done it — 't were the devil as done it, were nt it — ? 
oh! say 'twere the devil, Peter." And, seeing that hoary 
head all a- twitch with eagerness as he waited my answer, 
how could I do other than nod? 

" Yes, it was the devil, Ancient." The old man subsided 
into his chair, embracing himself exultantly. 



254 The Broad Highway 

" I knowed it i I knowed it ! " he quavered. " ' 'T were 
the devil flyin' off wi' Peter,' says I, an' they fules laughed 
at me, Peter, ay, laughed at me they did, but they won't 
laugh at the old man no more — not they ; old I be, but 
they won't laugh at me no more, not when they see your 
face an' I tell 'em." Here he paused to fumble for his 
snuff-box, and, opening it, held it towards me. 

" Tak' a pinch wi' me, Peter." 

" No, thank you, Ancient." 

" Come, 't would be a wonnerful thing to tell as I 'd 
took snuff out o' my very own box wi' a man as 'ad fou't 
wi' the devil — come — tak' a pinch, Peter," he pleaded. 
Whereupon, to please him, I did so, and immediately fell 
most violently a-sneezing. 

" And," pursued the old man when the paroxysm was 
over, " did ye see 'is 'orns, Peter, an' 'is — " 

" Why, no, Ancient ; you see, he happened to be wear- 
ing a bell-crowned hat and a long coat." 

" A 'at an' coat ! " said the old man in a disappointed 
tone — "a 'at, Peter?" 

" Yes," I nodded. 

a To be sure, the Scripters say as 'e goeth up an' down 
like a ravening Hon seekin' whom 'e may devour." 

" Yes," said I, " but more often, I think, like a fine 
gentleman ! " 

" I never heerd tell o' the devil in a bell-crowned 'at 
afore, but p'r'aps you 'm right, Peter — tak' another pinch 
o' snuff." 

" No more," said I, shaking my head. 

" Why, it 's apt to ketch you a bit at first, but, Lord ! 
Peter, for a man as 'as fou't wi' the devil — " 

" One pinch is more than enough, Ancient." 

" Oh, Peter, 't is a wonnerful thing as you should be 
alive this day ! " 

" And yet, Ancient, many a man has fought the devil 
before now and lived — nay, has been the better for it." 

" Maybe, Peter, maybe, but not on sech a turtle wild 
night as last night was." Saying which, the old man 



I Hear 111 News of George 255 

nodded emphatically and, rising, hobbled to the door; yet 
there he turned and came back again. " I nigh fergot, 
Peter, I have noos for ye." 

"News?" 

" Noos as ever was — noos as 'H surprise ye, Peter." 

"Well?" I inquired. 

" Well, Peter, Black Jarge be ' took ' again." 

"What?" I exclaimed. 

*' Oh ! I knowed 't would come — I knowed 'e could n't 
last much longer. I says to Simon, day afore yesterday it 
were, ' Simon,' I says, * mark my words, 'e '11 never last 
the month out — no.' " 

" How did it happen, Ancient? " 

" Got tur'ble drunk, 'e did, over to Cranbrook — i 
throwed Mr. Scrope, the Beadle, over the churchyard wafl 
— knocked down Jeremy Tullinger, the Watchman, an' 
then — went to sleep. While 'e were asleep they managed* 
cautious-like, to tie 'is legs an' arms, an' locked 'im up, 
mighty secure, in the vestry. 'Ows'ever, when 'e woke up 
'e broke the door open, an' walked out, an' nobody tried 
to stop 'im — not a soul, Peter." 

" And when was all this ? " 

" Why, that 's the very p'int," chuckled the Ancient, 
" that 's the wonnerful part of it, Peter. It all 'appened 
on Sat'day night, day afore yesterday as ever was — the 
very same day as I says to Simon, ' mark my words, 'e 
won't last the month out.' " 

" And where is he now ? " 

" Nobody knows, but theer 's them as says they see 'im 
makin' for Sefton Woods." Hereupon, breakfast done, I 
rose, and took my hat. 

" Wheer away, Peter ? " 

" To the forge ; there is much work to be done, Ancient. " 

" But Jarge bean't theer to 'elp ye." 

" Yet the work remains, Ancient." 

" Why then, if you 'm goin', I '11 go wi' ye, Peter." S* 
we presently set out together. 

All about us, as we walked, were mute evidences of the 



256 The Broad Highway 

fury of last night's storm: trees had been uprooted, and 
great branches torn from others as if by the hands of 
•angry giants ; and the brook was a raging torrent. Down 
here, in the Hollow, the destruction had been less, but in 
the woods, above, the giants had worked their will, and 
many an empty gap showed where, erstwhile, had stood a 
tall and stately tree. 

" Trees be very like men," said the Ancient, nodding to 
one that lay prone beside the path, " 'ere to-day an' gone 
to-morrer, Peter — gone to-morrer. The man in the Bible, 
*im as was cured of 'is blindness by our blessed Lord, 'e 
said as men was like trees walkin', but, to my mind, Peter, 
trees is much more like men a-standin' still. Ye see, Peter, 
trees be such companionable things ; it 's very seldom as 
you see a tree growin' all by itself, an' when you do, if you 
look at it you can't 'elp but notice 'ow lonely it do look — 
why, its very leaves seem to 'ave a down-'earted sort o' 
droop. I knowed three on 'em once — elm-trees they was 
— growin' all close together, so close that their branches 
used to touch each other when the wind blew, jest as if they 
was a-shakin' 'ands wi' one another, Peter. You could see 
as they was uncommon fond of each other, wi' half an eye. 
Well, one day, along comes a storm and blows one on 'em 
down — kills it dead, Peter; an' a little while later, they 
cuts down another — Lord knows why — an' theer was 
the last one, all alone an' solitary. Now, I used to watch 
that theer tree — an' here 's the cur'us thing, Peter — day 
by day I see that tree a-droopin' an' droopin', a-witherin' 
an' a-pinin' for them other two — brothers you might 
say — till one day I come by, an' theer it were, Peter, 
a-standin' up so big an' tall as ever — but dead ! Ay, 
Peter, dead it were, an' never put forth another leaf, an' 
never will, Peter — never. An', if you was to ax me, I 
should say as it died because its 'eart were broke, Peter. 
Yes, trees is very like men, an' the older you grow the more 
you '11 see it." 

It was thus we talked, or rather, the Ancient talked and 
I listened, until we reached Sissinghurst. At the door of 
the smithy we stopped. 



I Hear 111 News of George 257 

" Peter," said the old man, staring very hard at a button 
on my coat. 

"Well, Ancient?" 

" What about that theer — poor, old, rusty — stapil ? " 

" Why, it is still above the door, Ancient ; you must 
have seen it this morning." 

" Oh, ah ! I seed it, Peter, I seed it," answered the old 
man, shifting his gaze to a rolling white cloud above. " 1 1 
give it a glimp' over, Peter, but what do 'ee think of it? " * 

" Well," said I, aware of the fixity of his gaze and the 
wistful note in his voice, " it is certainly older and rustier ' 
than it was." 

"Rustier, Peter?" 

" Much rustier ! " Very slowly a smfle dawned on the 
wrinkled old face, and very slowly the eyes were lowered 
till they met mine. 

" Eh, lad ! but I be glad o' that — we be all growin' 
older, Peter, an' — though I be a wonnerful man for my 
age, an' so strong as a cart-'orse, Peter, still, I du some- 
times feel like I be growin' rustier wi' length o' days, an' 
't is a comfort to know as that theer stapil 's a-growin' 
rustier along wi' me. Old I be, but t' stapil 's old too, 
Peter, an' I be waitin' for the day when it shall rust itself 
away altogether; an' when that day comes, Peter, then 
I '11 say, like the patriach in the Bible : 6 Lord, now lettest 
thou thy servant depart in peace ! ' Amen, Peter ! " 

" Amen ! " said I. And so, having watched the old man 
totter across to " The BuH," I turned into the smithy and. 
set about lighting the fire. 



CHAPTER VI 

IN WHICH I LEARN OF AN IMPENDING DANGER 

I am at the forge, watching the deepening glow of the coals 
as I ply the bellows ; and, listening to their hoarse, not un- 
musical drone, it seems like a familiar voice (or the voice 
of a familiar), albeit a somewhat wheezy one, speaking to 
me in stertorous gasps, something in this wise: 

" Charmian Brown — desires to thank — Mr. Smith — 
but because thanks — are so poor and small — and his 
service so great — needs must she remember him — " 

" Remember me ! " said I aloud, and, letting go the shaft 
of the bellows the better to think this over, it naturally fol- 
lowed that the bellows grew suddenly dumb, whereupon I 
seized the handle and recommenced blowing with a will. 

" — remember him as a gentleman," wheezed the 
familiar. 

" Psha ! " I exclaimed. 

" — yet oftener as a smith — " 

"Hum!" saidl. 

'* — and most of all — - as a man." 

" As a man ! " said I, and, turning my back upon the 
bellows, I sat down upon the anvil and, taking my chin in 
my hand, stared away to where the red roof of old Amos's 
oast-house peeped through the swaying green of leaves. 

"As a man?" said I to myself again, and so fell 
a-dreaming of this Charmian. And, in my mind, I saw 
her, not as she had first appeared, tall and fierce and wild, 
but as she had been when she stooped to bind up the hurt in 
my brow — with her deep eyes brimful of tenderness, and 
h»r mouth sweet and compassionate. Beautiful eyes she 



I Learn of an Impending Danger 259 

had, though whether they were hlue or brown or black, I 

could not for the life of me remember ; only I knew I could 

never forget the look they had held when she gave that 

final pat to the bandage. And here I found that I was 

turning a little locket round and round in my fingers, a 

little, old-fashioned, heart-shaped locket with its quaint 

inscription : 

" Hee who myne heart would keepe for long 
Shall be a gentil man and strong." 

I was sitting thus, plunged in a reverie, when a shadow 

fell across the floor, and looking up I beheld Prudence, and! 

straightway, slipping the locket back into the bosom of 

my shirt, I rose to my feet, somewhat shamefaced to be 

caught thus idle. 

Her face was troubled, and her eyes red, as from recent 

tears, while in her hand she held a crumpled paper. 

" Mr. Peter — " she began, and then stopped, staring 

at me. 

"Well, Prudence? " 

" You — you 've seen him ! " 

" Him — whom do jou mean ? " 

"Black Jarge!" 

" No ; what should make you think so ? " 

" Your face be all cut — you 've been fightin' ! " 

" And supposing I have — that is none of George's 

doing ; he and I are very good friends — why should we 

quarrel? " 

" Then — then it were n't Jarge ? " 

" No — I have not seen him since Saturday." 

" Thank God ! " she exclaimed, pressing her hand to 

her bosom as if to stay its heaving. " But you must go," 

she went on breathlessly. " Oh, Mr. Peter ! I 've been so 

fearful for 'ee, and — and — you might meet each other 

any time, so — so you must go away." 

"Prudence," said I, "Prudence, what do you mean?" 
For answer, she held out the crumpled paper, and, 

scrawled in great, straggling characters, I read these 

words : 



260 The Broad Highway 

" Prudence, — I 'm going away, I shall kill him else, 
but I shall come back. Tell him not to cross my path, 
or God help him, and you, and me. George." 

" What does it all mean, Prudence? " said I, like a fool. 

Now, as I spoke, glancing at her I saw her cheeks, that 
had seemed hitherto more pale than usual, grow suddenly 
scarlet, and, meeting my eyes, she hid her face in her two 
hands. Then, seeing her distress, in that same instant I 
found the answer to my question, and so stood, turning 
poor George's letter over and over, more like a fool than 
ever. 

" You must go away — you must go away ! " she re- 
peated. 

"Hum!" said I. 

" You must go soon ; he means it, I — I 've seen death 
in his face," she said, shuddering ; " go to-day — the longer 
you stay here the worse for all of us — go now." 

" Prudence ! " said I. 

" Yes, Mr. Peter ! " from behind her hands. 

" You always loved Black George, did n't you ? " 

" Yes, Mr. Peter." 

"And you love him still, don't you?" A moment's 
silence, then: 

" Yes, Mr. Peter." 

" Excellent ! " said I. Her head was raised a trifle, and 
one tearful eye looked at me over her fingers. " I had 
always hoped you did," I continued, " for his sake, and for 
yours, and in my way, a very blundering way as it seems 
now, I have tried to bring you two together." Prudence 
only sobbed. " But things are not hopeless yet. I think 
I can see a means of straightening out this tangle." 

" Oh, if we only could ! " sobbed Prudence. " Ye see, 
I were very cruel to him, Mr. Peter ! " 

" Just a little, perhaps," said I, and, while she dabbed 
at her pretty eyes with her snowy apron, I took pen and 
ink from the shelf where I kept them, which, together with 
George's letter, I set upon the anvil. " Now," said I, in 
answer to her questioning look, " write down just here, 



I Learn of an Impending Danger 261 

below where George signed his name, what you told me a 
moment ago." 

" You mean, that I — " 

" That you love him, yes." 

"Oh, Mr. Peter!" 

" Prudence," said I, " it is the only way, so far as I 
can see, of saving, George from himself; and no sweet, 
pure maid need be ashamed to tell her love, especially to 
such a man as this, who worships the very ground that 
little shoe of yours has once pressed." 

She glanced up at me, under her wet lashes, as I said 
this, and a soft light beamed in her eyes, and a smile hov- 
ered upon her red lips. 

" Do he — really, Mr. Peter? " 

" Indeed he does, Prudence, though I think you must 
know that without my telling you." So she stooped above 
the anvil, blushing a little, and sighing a little, and crying 
a little, and, with fingers that trembled somewhat, to be 
sure, wrote these four words: 

" George, I love you." 

" What now, Mr. Peter? " she inquired, seeing me begin 
to unbuckle my leather apron. 

" Now," I answered, " I am going to look for Black 
George." 

" No ! — no ! " she cried, laying her hands upon my arm, 
" no ! no ! if 'ee do meet him, he — he '11 kill 'ee ! " 

" I don't think he will," said I, shaking my head. 

" Oh, don't go S — don't go ! " she pleaded, shaking my 
arm in her eagerness ; " he be so strong and wild and quick 

— he '11 give 'ee no chance to speak — 't will be murder ! " 
" Prudence," said I, " my mind is set on it. I am going 

— for your sake, for his sake, and my own ; " saying which, 
I loosed her hands gently and took down my coat from its 
peg. 

" Dear God ! " she exclaimed, staring down at the floor 
with wide eyes, " if he were to kill 'ee — ! " 



262 The Broad Highway 

" Well," said I, " my search would be ended and I should 
be a deal wiser in all things than I am to-day." 

" And he — would be hanged ! " said Prudence, shud- 
dering. 

" Probably — poor fellow ! " said I. At this she glanced 
quickly up, and once again the crimson dyed her cheeks. 

" Oh, Mr. Peter, forgive me ! I — I were only thinkin' 
of Jarge, and — " 

" And quite right too, Prudence," I nodded ; " he is 
indeed worth any good woman's thoughts ; let it be your 
duty to think of him, and for him, henceforth." 

" Wait ! " said she, " wait ! " And turning, she fled 
through the doorway and across the road, swift and grace- 
ful as any bird, and presently was back again, with some- 
thing hidden in her apron. 

" He be a strong man, and terrible in his wrath," said 
she, " and I — love him, but — take this wi ? you, and if 
it — must be — use it, because I do love him." Now, as 
she said this, she drew from her apron that same brass- 
bound pistol that had served me so well against the 
" ghost " and thrust it into my hand. " Take it, Mr. 
Peter — take it, but — oh ! " — here a great sob choked 
her voice — " don't — don't use it — if — if you can help 
it, for my sake." 

" Why, Prue ! " said I, touching her bowed head very 
tenderly, " how can you think I would go up against my 
friend with death in my hand — Heaven forbid ! " So I 
laid aside the weapon and, clapping on my hat, strode out 
into the glory of the summer morning, but left her weeping 
in the shadows. 



CHAPTER VII 

WHICH NARRATES A SOMEWHAT REMARKABLE CONVERSATION 

To find a man in Cambourne Woods, even so big a man 
as Black George, would seem as hard a matter as to find 
the needle in the proverbial " bottle of hay ; " the sun 
crept westward, the day declined into evening, yet, hungry 
though I was, I persevered in my search, not so much in 
the hope of finding him (in the which I knew I must be 
guided altogether by chance), as from a disinclination to 
return, just yet, to the cottage. " It would be miserable 
there at this hour," I told myself, " miserable and lonely." 

Yet why should I be lonely; I, who had gloried in my 
solitude hitherto? Whence then had come this change? 

While I stood thus, seeking an answer to this self- 
imposed question and finding none, I heard some one ap- 
proach, whistling, and, looking about, beheld a fellow with 
an axe upon his shoulder, who strode along at a good pace, 
keeping time to his whistle. He gave me a cheery greeting 
as he came up, but without stopping. 

" You seem in a hurry," said I. 

" Ah ! " grinned the man, over his shoulder, " 'cause 
why ? — 'cause I be goin' 'ome." 

" Home ! " said I. 

"To supper," he nodded, and, forthwith, began to 
whistle again, while I stood listening till the clear notes 
had died away. 

" Home ! " said I for the second time, and there came 
upon me a feeling of desolation such as I had never known 
even in my neglected boyhood's days. 

Home! truly a sweet word, a comfortable word, tha 



264 The Broad Highway 

memory of which has been as oil and wine to many a sick 
and weary traveler upon this Broad Highway of life; a 
little word, and yet one which may come betwixt a man 
and temptation, covering him like a shield. " Roof and 
walls, be they cottage or mansion, do not make home," 
thought I, " rather is it the atmosphere of mutual love, 
the intimacies of thought, the joys and sorrows endured 
together, and the never-failing sympathy — that bond in- 
visible yet stronger than death." 

And, because I had, hitherto, known nothing of this, 
I was possessed of a great envy for this axe-fellow as I 
walked on through the wood. 

Now as I went, it was as if there were two voices argu- 
ing together within me, whereof ensued the following tri- 
angular conversation : 

Myself. Yet I have my books — I will go to my 
lonely cottage and bury myself among my books. 

First Voice. Assuredly ! Is it for a philosopher to 
envy a whistling axe-fellow — go to ! 

Second Voice. Far better a home and loving com- 
panionship than all the philosophy of all the schools ; 
surely Happiness is greater than Learning, and more to 
be desired than Wisdom! 

First Voice. Better rather that Destiny had never sent 
her to you. 

Myself (rubbing my chin very hard, and staring at 
nothing in particular). Her? 

Second Voice. Her ! — to be sure, she who has been 
in your thoughts all day long. 

First Voice (with lofty disdain). Crass folly! — a 
woman utterly unknown, who came heralded by the roar 
of wind and the rush of rain — a creature born of the 
tempest, with flame in her eyes and hair, and fire in the 
scarlet of her mouth ; a fierce, passionate being, given to 
hot impulse — even to the taking of a man's life ! 

(" But," said I, somewhat diffidently, " the fellow was 
a proved scoundrel! ") 



A Remarkable Conversation 265 

First Voice (bellowing). Sophistry! sophistry! — • 
even supposing he was the greatest of villains, does that 
make her less a murderess in intent? 

Myself. Hum ! 

First Voice (roaring). Of course not ! Again, can this 
woman even faintly compare with your ideal of what a 
woman should be — this shrew ! — this termagant ! Can a 
woman whose hand has the strength to level a pistol, and 
whose mind the will to use it, be of a nature gentle, cling- 
ing, sweet — 

Second Voice (sotto). And sticky! 

First Voice (howling) . Of course not ! — preposterous ! 

(Hereupon, finding no answer, I strode on through the 
alleys of the wood; but, when I had gone some distance, 
I stopped again, for there rushed over me the recollection 
of the tender pity of her eyes and the gentle touch of her 
hand, as when she had bound up my hurts. 

" Nevertheless," said I doggedly, " her face can grow 
more beautiful with pity, and surely no woman's hand 
could be lighter or more gentle.") 

First Voice (with withering contempt). Our Peter fel- 
low is like to become a preposterous ass. 

(But, unheeding, I thrust my hand into my breast, and 
drew out a small handful of cambric, whence came a faint 
perfume of violets. ' And, closing my eyes, it seemed that 
she was kneeling before me, her arms about my neck, as 
when she had bound this handkerchief about my bleeding 
temples. 

" Truly," said I, " for that one sweet act alone, a woman 
might be worth dying for ! ") 

Second Voice. Or better still — living for ! 

First Voice (in high indignation). Balderdash, sir! — 
sentimental balderdash ! 

Secon© Voice. A truth incontrovertible ! 

(" Folly ! " said I, and threw the handkerchief from me. 
But next moment, moved by a sudden impulse, I stooped 
and picked it up again.) 



266 The Broad Highway 

First Voice. Our Peter fellow is becoming the fool of 
fools ! 

Myself. No, of that there is not the slightest fear, be- 
cause — she is — gone. 

And thus I remained staring at the handkerchief for a 
great while. 



CHAPTER VIII 

IN WHICH I SEE A VISION IN THE GLORY OF THE MOON, 
AND EAT OF A POACHED RABBIT 

The moon was rising as, hungry and weary, I came to 
that steep descent I have mentioned more than once, which 
leads down into the Hollow, and her pale radiance was 
already upon the world — a sleeping world wherein I 
seemed alone. And as I stood to gaze upon the wonder 
of the heavens, and the serene beauty of the earth, the 
clock in Cranbrook Church chimed nine. 

All about me was a soft stirring of leaves, and the rustle 
of things unseen, which was as the breathing of a sleeping 
host. Borne to my nostrils came the scent of wood and 
herb and dewy earth, while up-stealing from the shadow 
of the trees below, the voice of the brook reached me, sing- 
ing its never-ending song — now loud and clear, now sink- 
ing to a rippling murmur — a melody of joy and sorrow, 
of laughter and tears, like the greater melody of Life. 

And, presently, I descended into the shadows, and, walk- 
ing on beside the brook, sat me down upon a great boulder ; 
and, straightway, my weariness and hunger were forgotten, 
and I fell a-d reaming. 

Truly it was a night to dream in — a white night, full 
of the moon and the magic of the moon. Slowly she 
mounted upwards, peeping down at me through whisper- 
ing leaves, checkering the shadows with silver, and turning 
the brook into a path of silver for the feet of fairies. Yes, 
indeed, the very air seemed fraught with a magic whereby 
the unreal became the real and things impossible the mani- 
festly possible. 



268 The Broad Highway 

And so, staring up at the moon's pale loveliness, I 
dreamed the deathless dreams of long-dead poets and 
romancers, wherein were the notes of dreamy lutes, the 
soft whisper of trailing garments, and sighing voices that 
called beneath the breath. Between Petrarch's Laura and 
Dante's Beatrice came one as proud and gracious and 
beautiful as they, deep-bosomed, broad-hipped, with a red, 
red mouth, and a subtle witchery of the eyes. I dreamed 
of nymphs and satyrs, of fauns and dryads, and of the 
young Endymion who, en just such another night, in just 
such another leafy bower, waited the coming of his goddess. 

Now as I sat thus, chin in hand, I heard a little sound 
behind me, the rustling of leaves, .and, turning my head, 
beheld one who stood half in shadow, half in moonlight, 
looking down at me beneath a shy languor of drooping lids, 
with eyes hidden by their lashes — a woman tall and fair, 
and strong as Dian's self. 

Very still she stood, and half wistful, as if waiting for 
me to speak, and very silent I sat, staring up at her as she 
had been the embodiment of my dreams conjured up by 
the magic of the night, while, from the mysteries of the 
woods, stole the soft, sweet song of a nightingale. 

" Charmian? " said I at last, speaking almost in a whis- 
per. Surely this was the sweet goddess herself, and I the 
wondering shepherd on Mount Ida's solitude. 

" Charmian ! " said I again, " you — have come then ? " 
With the words I rose. " You have come, then ? " I 
repeated. 

But now she sighed a little, and, turning her head away, 
laughed very sweet and low — and sighed again. 

" Were you expecting me ? " 

" I — I think I was — that is — I — I don't know ! » I 
stammered. 

" Then you were not — very surprised to see me? " 

" No." 

" And you are not — very sorry to see me? " 

" No." 

" And — are you not very — glad to see me ? " 



A Vision in the Glory of the Moon 269 

" Yes." 

Here there fell a silence between us, yet a silence that 
was full of leafy stirrings, soft night noises, and the 
languorous murmur of the brook. Presently Charmian 
reached out a hand, broke off a twig of willow and began 
to turn it round and round in her white fingers, while I 
sought vainly for something to say. 

" When I went away this morning," she began at last, 
looking down at the twig, " I did n't think I should ever 
come back again." 

" No, I — I supposed not," said I awkwardly. 

" But, you see, I had no money." 

" No money? " 

" Not a penny. It was not until I had walked a long, 
long way, and was very tired, and terribly hungry, that I 
found I had n't enough to buy even a crust of bread." 

" And there was three pounds, fifteen shillings, and six- 
pence in Donald's old shoe," said I. 

" Sevenpence ! " she corrected. 

" Sevenpence? " said I, in some surprise. 

" Three pounds, fifteen shillings, and sevenpence. I 
counted it." 

"Oh!" said I. 

She nodded. " And in the other I found a small, very 
curiously shaped piece of wood." 

" Ah — yes, I 've been looking for that all the week. 
You see, when I made my table, by some miscalculation, 
one leg persisted in coming out shorter than the others, 
which necessitated its being shored up by a book until I 
made that block." 

" Mr. Peter Vibart's Virgil book ! " she said, nodding to 
the twig. 

" Y-e-s ! " said I, somewhat disconcerted. 

" It was a pity to use a book," she went on, still very 
intent upon the twig, " even if that book does belong to 
a man with such a name as Peter Vibart." 

Now presently, seeing I was silent, she stole a glance 
at me, and looking, laughed. 



270 The Broad Highway 



" But," she continued more seriously, " this has nothing 
to do with you, of course, nor me, for that matter, and I 
was trying to tell you how hungry — how hatefully hungry 
I was, and I could n't beg, could I, and so — and so I — 
I — " 

" You came back," said I. 

" I came back." 

" Being hungry." 

" Famishing ! " 

" Three pounds, fifteen shillings, and — sevenpence is 
not a great sum," said I, " but perhaps it will enable you 
to reach your family." 

" I 'm afraid not ; you see I have no family." 

" Your friends, then." 

" I have no friends ; I am alone in the world." 

" Oh ! " said I, and turned to stare down into the brook, 
for I could think only that she was alone and solitary, even 
as I, which seemed like an invisible bond between us, draw- 
ing us each nearer the other, whereat I felt ridiculously 
pleased that this should be so. 

" No," said Charmian, still intent upon the twig, " I 
have neither friends nor family nor money, and so — 
being hungry — I came back here, and ate up all the 
bacon." 

" Why, I had n't left much, if I remember." 

" Six slices ! " 

Now, as she stood, half in shadow, half in moonlight, 
I could not help but be conscious of her loveliness. She 
was no pretty woman ; beneath the high beauty of her face 
lay a dormant power that is ever at odds with prettiness, 
and before which I felt vaguely at a loss. And yet, be- 
cause of her warm beauty, because of the elusive witchery 
of her eyes, the soft, sweet column of the neck and the sway 
of the figure in the moonlight — because she was no god- 
dess, and I no shepherd in Arcadia, I clasped my hands 
behind me, and turned to look down into the stream. 

" Indeed," said I, speaking my thought aloud, " this is 
no place for a woman, after all." 



, 



A Vision in the Glory of the Moon 271 

" No," said she very softly. 

" No — although, to be sure, there are worse places." 

" Yes," said she, " I suppose so." 

" Then again, it is very far removed from the world, so 
that a woman must needs be cut off from all those little 
delicacies and refinements that are supposed to be essential 
to her existence." 

" Yes," she sighed. 

" Though what," I continued, " what on earth would be 
the use of a — harp, let us say, or a pair of curling-irons 
in this wilderness, I don't know." 

" One could play upon the one and curl one's hair with 
the other, and there is a deal of pleasure to be had from 
both," said she. 

" Then also," I pursued, " this place, as I told you, is 
said to be haunted — not," I went on, seeing that she was 
silent, " not that you believe in such things, of course? 
But the cottage is very rough, and ill and clumsily fur- 
nished — though, to be sure, it might be made comfortable 
enough, and — " 

" Well? " she inquired, as I paused. 

" Then — " said I, and was silent for a long time, watch- 
ing the play of the moonbeams on the rippling water. 

" Well? " said she again at last. 

" Then," said I, " if you are friendless, God forbid that 
I should refuse you the shelter of even such a place as this 
— so — if you are homeless, and without money — stay 
here — if you will — so long as it pleases you." 

I kept my eyes directed to the running water at my feet 
as I waited her answer, and it seemed a very long time 
before she spoke. 

" Are you fond of stewed rabbit? " 

" Rabbit ! " said I, staring. 

" With onions ! " 

"Onions?" 

" Oh, I can cook a little, and supper is waiting." 

" Supper? " 

" So if you are hungry — " 



272 The Broad Highway 

" I am ravenous ! " 

" Then why not come home and eat it? " 

"Home?" 

" Instead of echoing my words and staring the poor 
moon out of countenance? Come," and, with the word, she 
turned and led the way to the cottage. And behold, the 
candles were lighted, the table was spread with a snowy 
cloth, and a pot simmered upon the hob: a pot that gave 
forth an odor delectable, and over which Charmian bent 
forthwith, and into which she gazed with an anxious brow 
and thrust an inquiring fork. 

"I think it 'sail right!" 

" 1 5 m sure of it," said I, inhaling the appetizing aroma 
— " but, pray, where did you get it? " 

" A man sold it to me — he had a lot of them." 

" Hum! " said I, " probably poached." 

" I bought this for sixpence — out of the old shoe." 

" Sixpence ? — then they certainly were poached. These 
are the Cambourne Woods, and everything upon them — 
fish, flesh, or fowl, living or dead — belongs to the Lady 
Sophia Sefton of Cambourne." 

" Then — perhaps we had better not eat it," said she, 
glancing at me over her shoulder — but, meeting my eye, 
she laughed. And so we presently sat down to supper and, 
poached though it may have been, that rabbit made a truly 
noble end, notwithstanding. 



CHAPTER IX 

WHICH RELATES SOMEWHAT OF CHARMIAN BROWN 

We were sitting in the moonlight. 

" Now," said Charmian, staring up at the luminous 
heaven, " let us talk." 

" Willingly," I answered ; " let us talk of stars." 

" No — let us talk of ourselves." 

" As you please." 

" Very well, you begin." 

" Well — I am a blacksmith." 

" Yes, you told me so before." 

" And I make horseshoes — " 

" He is a blacksmith, and makes horseshoes ! " said 
Charmian, nodding at the moon. 

" And I live here, in this solitude, very contentedly ; so 
that it is only reasonable to suppose that I shall continue 
to live here, and make horseshoes — though, really," I 
broke off, letting my eyes wander from my companion's 
upturned face back to the glowing sky, once more, " there 
is little I could tell you about so commonplace a person as 
myself that is likely to interest you." 

" No," said Charmian, " evidently not ! " Here my 
gaze came down to her face again so quickly that I fancied 
I detected the ghost of a smile upon her lips. 

" Then," said I, " by all means let us talk of something 
else." 

;i Yes," she agreed; "let us talk of the woman Char- 
mian — Charmian — Brown." A tress of hair had come 
loose, and hung low above her brow, and in its shadow her 
eyes seemed more elusive, more mocking than ever, and, 



274 The Broad Highway 

while our glances met, she put up a hand and began to 
wind this glossy tress round and round her finger. 

"Well?" said she. 

" Well," said I, " supposing you begin." 

" But is she likely to interest you? " 

" I think so — yes." 

** Are n't you sure, then? " 

" Quite sure — certainly." 

*' Then why don't you say so ? " 

" I thought you would take that for granted." 

" A woman should take nothing for granted, sir." 

" Then," said I, " supposing you begin." 

" I 've half a mind not to," she retorted, curling the 
tress of hair again, and then, suddenly : " What do you 
think of Charmian Brown? " 

" I think of her as little as I can." 

"Indeed, sir!" 

" Indeed," said I. 

" And why, pray ? " 

" Because," said I, knocking the ashes from my pipe, 
" because the more I think about her the more incompre- 
hensible she becomes." 

" Have you known man}' women ? " 

" Very few," I confessed, " but — " 

" But? " 

" I am not altogether unfamiliar with the sex — for I 
have known a great number — in books." 

" Our blacksmith," said Charmian, addressing the 
moon again, " has known many women — in books ! His 
knowledge is, therefore, profound ! " and she laughed. 

" May I ask why you laugh at me ? " 

" Oh ! " said she, " don't you know that women in books 
and women out of books are no more the same than day 
and night, or summer and winter? " 

" And yet there are thousands of women who exist for 
us in books only, Laura, Beatrice, Trojan Helen, Aspasia, 
the glorious Phryne, and hosts of others," I demurred. 

" Yes ; but they exist for us only as their historians 



Charmian Brown 275 

permit them, as their biographers saw, or imagined them. 
Would Petrarch ever have permitted Laura to do an un- 
gracious act, or anything which, to his masculine under- 
standing, seemed unfeminine ; and would Dante have men- 
tioned it had Beatrice been guilty of one? A man can 
no more understand a woman from the reading of books 
than he can learn Latin or Greek from staring at the 
sky." 

" Of that," said I, shaking my head, " of that I am not 
so sure." 

" Then — personally — you know very little concern- 
ing women? " she inquired. 

" I have always been too busy," said I. Here Charmian 
turned to look at me again. 

" Too busy ? " she repeated, as though she had not heard 
aright ; " too busy ? " 

" Much too busy ! " Now, when I said this, she laughed, 
and then she frowned, and then she laughed again. 

" You would much rather make a — horseshoe than talk 
with a woman, perhaps ? " 

" Yes, I think I would." 

" Oh ! " said Charmian, frowning again, but this time 
she did not look at me. 

" You see," I explained, turning my empty pipe over 
and over, rather aimlessly, " when I make a horseshoe I 
take a piece of iron and, having heated it, I bend and shape 
it, and with every hammer-stroke I see it growing into 
what I would have it — I am sure of it, from start to 
finish ; now, with a woman it is — different." 

" You mean that you cannot bend, and shape her, like 
your horseshoe? " still without looking towards me. 

" I mean that — that I fear I should never be quite sure 
of a — woman, as I am of my horseshoe." 

" Why, you see," said Charmian, beginning to braid the 
tress of hair, " a woman cannot, at any time, be said to 
resemble a horseshoe — very much, can she ? " 

" Surely," said I, * surely you know what I mean — ? " 

" There are Laura and Beatrice and Helen and Aspasia 



276 The Broad Highway 

and Phryne, and hosts of others," said Charmian, nod- 
ding to the moon again. " Oh, yes — our blacksmith has 
read of so many women in books that he has no more idea 
of women out of books than I of Sanscrit." 

And, in a little while, seeing I was silent, she conde- 
scended to glance towards me: 

" Then I suppose, under the circumstances, you ha^ve 
never been — in love? " 

" In love ? " I repeated, and dropped my pipe. 

" In love." 

"The Lord forbid!" 

"Why, pray?" 

" Because Love is a disease — a madness, coming be- 
tween a man and his life's work. Love ! " said I, " it is a 
calamity ! " 

" Never having been in love himself, our blacksmith, 
very naturally, knows all about it ! " said Charmian to the 
moon. 

" I speak only of such things as I have read — "I 
began. 

" More books ! " she sighed. 

" — words of men, much wiser than I — poets and 
philosophers, written — " 

" When they were old and gray-headed," Charmian 
broke in ; " when they were quite incapable of judging the 
matter — though many a grave philosopher loved; now 
did n't he?" 

" To be sure," said I, rather hipped, " Dionysius Lam- 
bienus, I think, says somewhere that a woman with a big 
mouth is infinitely sweeter in the kissing — and — " 

" Do you suppose he read that in a book ? " she in- 
quired, glancing at me sideways. 

" Why, as to that," I answered, " a philosopher may 
love, but not for the mere sake of loving." 

" For whose sake then, I wonder? " 

" A man who esteems trifles for their own sake is a trifler, 
but one who values them, rather, for the deductions that 
may be drawn from them — he is a philosopher." 



' 



Charmian Brown 277 

Charmian rose, and stood looking down at me very 
strangely. 

" So ! " said she, throwing back her head, " so, throned 
in lofty might, superior Mr. Smith thinks Love a trifle^ 
does he? " 

" My name is Vibart, as I think you know," said I, stung 
by her look or her tone, or both. 

" Yes," she answered, seeming to look down at me from 
an immeasurable attitude, " but I prefer to know him, just 
now, as Superior Mr. Smith." 

" As you will," said I, and rose also ; but, even then, 
though she had to look up to me, I had the same inward 
conviction that her eyes were regarding me from a great 
height ; wherefore I attempted — quite unsuccessfully — 
to light my pipe. 

And after I had struck flint and steel vainly, perhaps a 
dozen times, Charmian took the box from me, and, igniting 
the tinder, held it for me while I lighted my tobacco. 

" Thank you ! " said I, as she returned the box, and 
then I saw that she was smiling. " Talking of Charmian 
Brown — "I began. 

" But we are not." 

" Then suppose you begin ? " 

" Do you really wish to hear about that — humble 
person? " 

" Very much ! " 

" Then you must know, in the first place, that she is old, 
sir, dreadfully old ! " 

" But," said I, " she really cannot be more than — 
twenty-three — or four at the most." 

" She is j ust twenty-one ! " returned Charmian, rather 
hastily, I thought. 

"Quite a child!" 

" No, indeed — it is experience that ages one — and by 
experience she is quite — two hundred ! " 

" The wonder is that she still lives." 

" Indeed it is ! " 

" And, being of such a ripe age, it is probable that she, 
at any rate, has — been in love." 



278 The Broad Highway 

" Scores of times ! " 

" Oh ! " said I, puffing very hard at my pipe. 

" Or fancied so," said Charmian. 

" That," I replied, " that is a very different thing! " 

" Do you think so ? " 

"Well — isn't it?" 

" Perhaps." 

" Very well, then, continue, I beg." 

" Now, this woman," Charmian went on, beginning to 
curl the tress of hair again, " hating the world about her 
with its shams, its hypocrisy, and cruelty, ran away from 
it all, one day, with a villain." 

" And why with a villain ? " 

" Because he was a villain ! " 

" That," said I, turning to look at her, ** that I do not 
understand ! " 

" No, I did n't suppose you would," she answered. 

" Hum ! " said I, rubbing my chin. " And why did you 
run away from him? " 

" Because he was a villain." 

" That was very illogical ! " said I. 

" But very sensible, sir." Here there fell a silence be- 
tween us, and, as we walked, now and then her gown would 
brush my knee, or her shoulder touch mine, for the path 
was very narrow. 

" And — did you — "I began suddenly, and stopped. 

"Did I — what, sir?" 

" Did you love him? " said I, staring straight in front 
of me. 

"I — ran away from him." 

" And — do you — love him? " 

66 1 suppose," said Charmian, speaking very slowly, " I 
suppose you cannot understand a woman hating and lov- 
ing a man, admiring and despising him, both at the same 
time?" 

" No, I can't." 

" Can you understand one glorying in the tempest that 
may destroy her, riding a fierce horse that may crush her, 



Charmian Brown 279 

or being attracted by a will strong and masterful, before 
which aH must yield or break ? " 

" I think I can." 

" Then," said Charmian, " this man is strong and wild 
and very masterful, and so — I ran away with him." 

" And do you — love him ? " We walked on some dis- 
tance ere she answered: 

"I — don't know." 

"Not sure, then?" 

" No." 

After this we fell silent altogether, yet once, when I hap- 
pened to glance at her, I saw that her eyes were very bright 
beneath the shadow of her drooping lashes, and that her 
lips were smiling; and I pondered very deeply as to why 
this should be. 

Re-entering the cottage, I closed the door, and waited 
the while she lighted my candle. 

And, having taken the candle from her hand, I bade her 
" Good night," but paused at the door of my chamber. 

" You feel — quite safe here ? " 

" Quite safe ! " 

" Despite the color of my hair and eyes — you have no 
fear of — Peter Smith? " 

"None!" 

" Because — he is neither fierce nor wild nor master- 
ful!" 

" Because he is neither fierce nor wild," she echoed. 

" Nor masterful ! " said I. 

" Nor masterful ! " said Charmian, with averted head. 
So I opened the door, but, even then, must needs turn back 
again. 

" Do you think I am so very — different — from him? " 

" As different as day from night, as the lamb from the 
wolf," said she, without looking at me. " Good night, 
Peter!" 

" Good night ! " said I, and so, going into my room, I 
closed the door behind me. 

" A lamb ! " said I, tearing off my neckcloth, and sat for 



280 The Broad Highway 

some time listening to her footstep and the soft rustle 
of her petticoats going to and fro. 

" A lamb ! " said I again, and slowly drew off my coat. 
As I did so, a little cambric handkerchief fell to the floor, 
and I kicked it, forthwith, into a corner. 

" A lamb ! " said I, for the third time, but, at this mo- 
ment, came a light tap upon the door. 

" Yes ? " said I, without moving. 

" Oh, how is your injured thumb? " 

" Thank you, it is as well as can be expected." 

" Does it pain you very much? " 

" It is not unbearable ! " said I. 

" Good night, Peter ! " and I heard her move away. 
But presently she was back again. 

"Oh, Peter?" 

"Well?" 

" Are you frowning? " 

" I — I think I was — why? " 

" WTien you frown, you are very like — him, and have 
the same square set of the mouth and chin, when you are 
angry — so don't, please don't frown, Peter — Good 
night!" 

" Good night, Charmian ! " said I, and stooping, I picked 
up the little handkerchief and thrust it under my pillow. 



CHAPTER X 

I AM SUSPECTED OF THE BLACK AET 
u VlBABT ! " 

The word had been uttered close behind me, and very 
softly, yet I started at this sudden mention of my name 
and stood for a moment with my hammer poised above the 
anvil ere I turned and faced the speaker. He was a tall 
man with a stubbly growth of grizzled hair about his lank 
jaws, and he was leaning in at that window of the smithy 
which gave upon a certain grassy back lane. 

" You spoke, I think! " said I. 

"I said, 'Vibart'!" 

"Well?" 

"Well?" 

" And why should you say ' Vibart '? " 

" And why should you start ? " Beneath the broad, flap- 
ping hat his eyes glowed with a sudden intensity as he 
waited my answer. 

" It is familiar," said I. 

" Ha ! familiar ? " he repeated, and his features were 
suddenly contorted as with a strong convulsion, and his 
teeth gleamed between his pallid lips. 

My hammer was yet in my grasp, and, as I met this 
baleful look, my fingers tightened instinctively about the 
shaft. 

" Familiar? " said he again. 

" Yes," I nodded ; " like your face, for it would almost 
seem that I have seen you somewhere before, and I seldom 
forget faces." 

" Nor do I ! " said the man. 



282 The Broad Highway 

Now, while we thus fronted each other, there came the 
sound of approaching footsteps, and John Pringle, the 
Carrier, appeared, followed by the pessimistic Job. 

" Marnin', Peter ! — them 'orseshoes," began John, paus- 
ing just outside the smithy door, " you was to finish 'em 
's arternoon ; if so be as they bean't done, you bein' short- 
'anded wi'out Jarge, why, I can wait." Now, during this 
speech, I was aware that both his and Job's eyes had wan- 
dered from my bandaged thumb to my bare throat, and 
become fixed there. 

" Come in and sit down," said I, nodding to each, as I 
blew up the fire, " come in." For a moment they hesitated, 
then John stepped gingerly into the smithy, closely fol- 
lowed by Job, and, watching them beneath my brows as 
I stooped above the shaft of the bellows, I saw each of 
them furtively cross his fingers. 

" Why do you do that, John Pringle? " said I. 

"Do what, Peter?" 

" Cross your fingers." 

« Why, ye see, Peter," said John, glancing in turn at 
the floor, the rafters, the fire, and the anvil, but never at 
me, " ye see, it be just a kind o' way o' mine." 

" But why does Job do the same? " 

" An' why do 'ee look at a man so sharp an' sudden- 
like ? " retorted Job sullenly ; " dang me ! if it are n't 
enough to send cold shivers up a chap's spine — I never 
see such a pair o' eyes afore — no — nor don't want to 
again." 

" Nonsense ! " said I ; " my eyes can't hurt you." 

" An' 'ow am I to know that, 'ow am I to be sure o' 
that; an' you wi' your throat all torn wi' devil's claws 
an' demon's clutches — it bean't nat'ral — Old Amos says 
so, an' I sez so." 

" Pure folly ! " said I, plucking the iron from the fire, 
and beginning to beat and shape it with my hammer, but 
presently, remembering the strange man who had spoken 
my name, I looked up, and then I saw that he was gone. 
" Where is he ? " said I involuntarily. 



I am Suspected of the Black Art 283 

" Where 's who ? " inquired John Pringle, glancing about 
uneasily. 

" The fellow who was talking to me as you came up ? " 

" I did n't see no fellow ! " said Job, looking at John and 
edging nearer the door. 

" Nor me neither ! " chimed in John Pringle, looking at 
Job. 

" Why, he was leaning in at the window here, not a 
minute ago," said I, and, plunging the half-finished horse- 
shoe back into the fire, I stepped out into the road, but 
the man was nowhere to be seen. 

" Very strange ! " said I. 

" What might 'e 'ave been like, now? " inquired John. 

" He was tall and thin, and wore a big flapping hat." 

John Pringle coughed, scratched his chin, and coughed 
again. 

" What is it, John ? " I inquired. 

" Why, then, you could n't 'appen to notice — 'im 
wearin' 'is 'at — you could n't 'appen to notice if 'e 'ad 
ever a pair o' 'orns, Peter? " 

" Horns ! " I exclaimed. 

"Or a — tail, Peter?" 

" Or even a — 'oof, now? " suggested Job. 

" Come," said I, looking from one to the other, " what 
might you be driving at? " 

" Why, ye see, Peter," answered John, coughing again* 
and scratching his chin harder than ever, " ye see, Peter » 
it are n't nat'ral for a 'uman bein' to go a-vanishin' away 
like this 'ere — if 't were a man as you was a-talkin' to — " 

" Which I doubts ! " muttered Job. 

" If 't were a man, Peter, then I axes you — - where is 
that man? " 

Before I could answer this pointed question, old Joel 
Amos hobbled up, who paused on the threshold to address 
some one over his shoulder. 

" Come on, James, 'ere 'e be — come for'ard, James, like 
a man." 

Thus adjured, another individual appeared : a somewhat 



284 The Broad Highway 

flaccid-looking individual, with colorless hair and eyes, one 
who seemed to exhale an air of apology, as it were, from 
the hobnailed boot upon the floor to the grimy forefinger 
that touched the straw-like hair in salutation. 

" Marnin', Peter ! " said Old Amos, " this yere is — 
Dutton." 

" How do you do ? " said I, acknowledging the intro- 
duction, "and what can I do for Mr. Dutton? " The latter, 
instead of replying, took out a vivid belcher handkerchief, 
and apologetically mopped his face. 

" Speak up, James Dutton," said Old Amos. 

"Lord!" exclaimed Dutton, "Lord! I du be that 'ot! 
— you speak for I, Amos, du." 

" Well," began Old Amos, not ill-pleased, " this 'ere 
Dutton wants to ax 'ee a question, 'e du, Peter." 

" I shall be glad to answer it, if I can," I returned. 

" You 'ear that ? — well, ax your question, James Dut- 
ton," commanded the old man. 

" W'y, ye see, Amos," began Dutton, positively reeking 
apology, " I du be that on-common 'ot — you ax un." 

" W'y, then, Peter," began Amos, with great unction, 
" it 's 'is pigs ! " 

" Pigs ? " I exclaimed, staring. 

"Ah ! pigs, Peter," nodded Old Amos, " Dutton's pigs ; 
'is sow farrowed last week — at three in the marnin' — 
nine of 'em ! " 

" Well ? " said I, wondering more and more. 

" Well, Peter, they was a fine 'earty lot, an' all a-doin' 
well — till last Monday." 

" Indeed ! " said I. 

" Last Monday night, four on 'em sickened an' died ! " 

" Most unfortunate ! " said I. 

" An' the rest 'as never been the same since." 

" Probably ate something that disagreed with them," 
said I, picking up my hammer and laying it down again. 
Old Amos smiled and shook his head. 

" You know James Dutton's pigsty, don't ye, Peter? " 

" I really can't say that I do." 



I am Suspected of the Black Art 285 

" Yet you pass it every day on your way to the 'Oiler 
— it lays just be'ind Simon's oast-'ouse, as James 'isself 
will tell 'ee." 

" So it du," interpolated Dutton, with an apologetic 
nod, " which, leastways, if it don't, can't be no'ow ! " hav- 
ing delivered himself of which, he buried his face in the 
belcher handkerchief. 

" Now, one evenin', Peter," continued Old Amos, " one 
evenin' you leaned over the fence o' that theer pigsty an* 
stood a-lookin' at they pigs for, p'r'aps, ten minutes." 

"Did I?" 

" Ay, that ye did — James Dutton see ye, an' 'is wife, 
she see ye tu, and I see ye." 

" Then," said I, " probably I did. Well? " 

" Well," said the old man, looking round upon his 
hearers, and bringing out each word with the greatest 
unction, " that theer evenin' were last Monday evenin' as 
ever was — the very same hour as Dutton's pigs sickened 
an' died ! " Hereupon John Pringle and Job rose simul- 
taneously from where they had been sitting, and retreated 
precipitately to the door. 

" Lord ! " exclaimed John. 

" I might ha' knowed it ! " said Job, drawing a cross in 
the air with his finger. 

" An' so James Dutton wants to ax ye to tak' it off, 
Peter," said Old Amos. 

" To take what off? " 

" Why, the spell, for sure." Hereupon I gave free play 
to my amusement, and laughed, and laughed, while the 
others watched me with varying expressions. 

" And so }^ou think that I bewitched Dutton's pigs, do 
you ? " said I, at last, glancing from Old Amos to the per- 
spiring Apology (who immediately began to mop at his 
face and neck again). "And why," I continued, seeing 
that nobody appeared willing to speak, " why should you 
think it of me?" 

" W'y, Peter, ye bean't like ordinary folk ; your eyes 
goes through an' through a man. An' then, Peter, I mind 



286 The Broad Highway- 

's you come a-walkin' into Siss'n'urst one night from Lord 
knows wheer, all covered wi' dust, an' wi' a pack on jour 
back." 

" You are wrong there, Amos," said I, " it was after- 
noon when I came, and the Ancient was with me." 

"Ah! an' wheer did 'e find ye, Peter? — come, speak 
up an' tell us." 

" In the Hollow," I answered. 

" Ay, 'e found 'ee in the very spot wheer the Wanderer 
•o' the Roads 'ung 'isself, sixty an' six years ago." 

" There is nothing very strange in that ! " said I. 

" What 's more, you come into the village an' beat Black 
Jarge throwin' th' 'ammer, an' 'im the strongest man in 
all the South Country ! " 

" I beat him because he did not do his best — so there 
is nothing strange in that either." 

" An' then, you lives all alone in that theer ghashly 
'Oiler — an' you fights, an' struggles wi' devils an' de- 
mons, all in the wind an' rain an' tearin' tempest — an' 
what 's most of all — you comes back — alive ; an' what 's 
more yet, wi' devil-marks upon ye an' your throat all tore 
wi' claws. Old Gaffer be over proud o' findin' ye, but old 
Gaffer be dodderin' — dodderin' 'e be, an' fulish wi' years ; 
'e 'd ha' done much better to ha' left ye alone — I 've heerd 
o' folk sellin' theirselves to the devil afore now, I 've like- 
wise heerd o' the ' Evil Eye ' afore now — ah ! an' knows 
one when I sees it." 

" Nonsense ! " said I sternly, " nonsense ! This talk of 
ghosts and devils is sheer folly. I am a man, like the rest 
of you, and could not wish you ill — even if I would — 
come, let us all shake hands, and forget this folly ! " and 
I extended my hand to Old Amos. 

He glanced from it to my face, and immediately, lower- 
ing his eyes, shook his head. 

" 'T is the ' Evil Eye' ! " said he, and drew a cross upon 
the floor with kis stick, " the ' Evil Eye'! " 

" Nonsense ! " said I again ; " my eye is no more evil 
than yours or Job's. I never wished any man harm yet, 



I am Suspected of the Black Art 287 

nor wronged one, and I hope I never may. As for Mr. 
Dutton's pigs, if he take better care of them, and keep 
them out of the damp, they will probably thrive better than 
ever — come, shake hands ! " 

But, one by one, they edged their way to the door after 
Old Amos, until only John Pringle was left; he, for a 
moment, stood hesitating, then, suddenly reaching out, he 
seized my hand, and shook it twice. 

" I '11 call for they 'orseshoes in the marnin', Peter," said 
he, and vanished. 

" Arter all," I heard him say, as he j oined the others, 
" 't is summat to ha' shook 'ands wi' a chap as fights wF 
demons ! " 



CHAPTER XI 

A SHADOW IN THE HEDGE 

Over the uplands, to my left, the moon was peeping at 
me, very broad and yellow, as yet, casting long shadows 
athwart my way. The air was heavy with the perfume of 
honeysuckle abloom in the hedges — a warm, still air 
wherein a deep silence brooded, and in which leaf fluttered 
not and twig stirred not; but it was none of this I held 
in my thoughts as I strode along, whistling softly as I 
went. Yet, in a while, chancing to lift my eyes, I beheld 
the object of my reverie coming towards me through the 
shadows. 

" Why — Charmian ! " said I, uncovering my head. 

"Why — Peter!" 

" Did you come to meet me ? " 

" It must be nearly nine o'clock, sir." 

" Yes, I had to finish some work." 

" Did any one pass you on the road? " 

" Not a soul." 

" Peter, have you an enemy? " 

" Not that I know of, unless it be myself. Epictetus 
says somewhere that — " 

" Oh, Peter, how dreadfully quiet everything is ! " said 
she, and shivered. 

" Are you cold? " 

" No — but it is so dreadfully — still." 

Now in one place the lane, narrowing suddenly, led be- 
tween high banks crowned with bushes, so that it was very 
dark there. As we entered this gloom Charmian suddenly 
drew closer to my side and slipped her hand beneath my 



A Shadow in the Hedge 289 

arm and into my clasp, and the touch of her fingers was 
like ice. 

" Your hand is very cold ! " sard I. But she only 
laughed, yet I felt her shiver as she pressed herself close 
against me. 

And now it was she who talked and I who walked in 
silence, or answered at random, for I was conscious only 
of the clasp of her fingers and the soft pressure of hip 
and shoulder. 

So we passed through this place of shadows, walking 
neither fast nor slow, and ever her cold fingers clasped my 
fingers, and her shoulder pressed my arm while she talked, 
and laughed, but of what, I know not, until we had left 
the dark place behind. Then she sighed deeply and turned, 
and drew her arm from mine, almost sharply, and stood 
looking back, with her two hands pressed upon her bosom. 

"What is it?" 

" Look ! " she whispered, pointing, " there — where it 
is darkest — look ! " Now, following the direction of her 
finger, I saw something that skulked amid the shadows — 
something that slunk away, and vanished as I watched. 

" A man ! " I exclaimed, and would have started in pur- 
suit, but Charmian's hands were upon my arm, strong and 
compelling. 

" Are you mad ? " cried she angrily ; " would you give 
him the opportunity I prevented? He was waiting there 
to — to shoot you, I think ! " 

And, after we had gone on some little way, I spoke. 

" Was that why you — came to meet me ? " 

"Yes." 

" And — kept so close beside me." 

" Yes." 

" Ah, yes, to be surei " said I, and walked on in silence; 
and now I noticed that she kept as far from me as the 
path would allow. 

" Are you thinking me very — unmaidenly again, sir? " 

"No," I answered; "no." 

" You see, I had no other way. Had I told you that 



290 The Broad Highway 

there was a man hidden in the hedge you would have 
gone to look, and then — something dreadful would have 
happened." 

" How came jou to know he was there? " 

" Why, after I had prepared supper I climbed that steep 
path which leads to the road and sat down upon the fallen 
tree that lies there, to watch for you, and, as I sat there, 
I saw a man come hurrying down the road." 

" A very big man? " 

" Yes, very tall he seemed, and, as I watched, he crept 
in behind the hedge. While I was wondering at this, I 
heard your step on the road, and you were whistling." 

" And yet I seldom whistle." 

" It was you — I knew your step." 

" Did you, Charmian ? " 

" I do wish you would not interrupt, sir." 

" I beg your pardon," said I humbly. 

" And then I saw you coming, and the man saw you too, 
for he crouched suddenly; I could only see him dimly in 
the shadow of the hedge, but he looked murderous, and it 
seemed to me that if you reached his hiding-place before 
I did — something terrible would happen, and so — " 

" You came to meet me." 

" Yes." 

" And walked close beside me, so that you were between 
me and the shadow in the hedge? " 

" Yes." 

" And I thought — "I began, and stopped. 

" Well, Peter? " Here she turned, and gave me a swift 
.glance beneath her lashes. 

" — that it was because — you were — perhaps — rather 
glad to see me." Charmian did not speak ; indeed she was 
so very silent that I would have given much to have seen 
her face just then, but the light was very dim, as I have 
;said, moreover she had turned her shoulder towards me. 
" But I am grateful to you," I went on, " very grateful, 
And — it was very brave of you!" 

" Thank you, sir," she answered in a very small voice, 



A Shadow in the Hedge 291 

and I more than suspected that she was laughing" at 
me. 

" Not," I therefore continued, " that there was any real 
danger." 

" What do you mean ? " she asked quickly. 

" I mean that, in all probability, the man you saw was 
Black George, a very good friend of mine, who, though 
he may imagine he has a grudge against me, is too much 
of a man to lie in wait to do me hurt." 

" Then why should he hide in the hedge ? " 

" Because he committed the mistake of throwing the 
town Beadle over the churchyard wall, and is, consequently, 
in hiding, for the present." 

" He has an ill-sounding name." 

" And is the manliest, gentlest, truest, and worthiest 
fellow that ever wore the leather apron." 

Seeing how perseveringly she kept the whole breadth 
of the path between us, I presently fell back and walked 
behind her; now her head was bent, and thus I could not 
but remark the little curls and tendrils of hair upon her 
neck, whose sole object seemed to be to make the white 
skin more white by contrast. 

" Peter," said she suddenly, speaking over her shoulder, 
" of what are you thinking ? " 

" Of a certain steak pasty that was promised for my 
supper," I answered immediately, mendacious. 

"Oh!" 

" And what," I inquired, "what were you thinking? " 

" I was thinking, Peter, that the — shadow in the hedge 
may not have been Black George, after all." 



CHAPTER XII 

WHO COMES? 

" This table wobbles ! " said Charmian. 

" It does," said I, " but then I notice that the block is 
misplaced again." 

" Then why use a block? " 

" A book is so clumsy — "I began. 

" Or a book ? Why not cut down the long legs to match 
the short one? " 

" That is really an excellent idea." 

" Then why did n't you before? " 

" Because, to be frank with you, it never occurred to 
me." 

" I suppose you are better as a blacksmith than a car- 
penter, are n't you, Peter? " And, seeing I could find no 
answer worthy of retort, she laughed, and, sitting down, 
watched me while I took my saw, forthwith, and shortened 
the three long legs as she had suggested. Having done 
which, to our common satisfaction, seeing the moon was 
rising, we went and sat down on the bench beside the cot- 
tage door. 

" And — are you a very good blacksmith? " she pursued, 
turning to regard me, chin in hand. 

" I can swing a hammer or shoe a horse with any smith 
in Kent — except Black George, and he is the best in all 
the South Country." 

" And is that a very great achievement, Peter? " 

" It is not a despicable one." 

" Are you quite satisfied to be able to shoe horses well, 
sir?" 



Who Comes? 293 

" It is far better to be a good blacksmith than a bad 
poet or an incompetent prime minister." 

" Meaning that you would rather succeed in the little 
thing than fail in the great? " 

" With your permission, I will smoke," said I. 

" Surely," she went on, nodding her permission, " surely 
it is nobler to be a great failure rather than a mean 
success? " 

" Success is very sweet, Charmian, even in the smallest 
thing; for instance," said I, pointing to the cottage door 
that stood open beside her, " when I built that door, and 
saw it swing on its hinges, I was as proud of it as though 
it had been — " 

" A really good door," interpolated Charmian, " instead 
of a bad one ! " 

" A bad one, Charmian ? " 

" It is a very clumsy door, and has neither bolt nor 
lock." 

" There are no thieves hereabouts, and, even if there 
were, they would not dare to set foot in the Hollow after 
dark." 

" And then, unless one close it with great care, it sticks 
— very tight ! " 

" That, obviating the necessity of a latch, is rather to 
be commended," said I. 

" Besides, it is a very ill-fitting door, Peter." 

" I have seen worse." 

" And will be very draughty in cold weather." 

" A blanket hung across will remedy that." 

" Still, it can hardly be called a very good door, can it, 
Peter? " Here I lighted my pipe without answering. " I 
suppose you make horseshoes much better than you make 
doors ? " I puffed at my pipe in silence. " You are not 
angry because I found fault with your door, are you, 
Peter?" 

" Angry? " said I; " not in the least." 

" I am sorry for that." 

"Why sorry?" . 



294 The Broad Highway 

" Are you never angry, Peter? " 

" Seldom, I hope." 

"I should like to see you so — just once." Finding 
nothing to say in answer to this, I smoked my negTO-head 
pipe and stared at the moon, which was looking down at us 
through a maze of tree-trunks and branches. 

" Referring to horseshoes," said Charmian at last, " are 
you content to be a blacksmith all your days ? " 

" Yes, I think I am." 

" Were you never ambitious, then? " 

" Ambition is like rain, breaking itself upon what it falls 
on — at least, so Bacon says, and — " 

" Oh, bother Bacon ! Were you never ambitious, Peter ? " 

" I was a great dreamer." 

" A dreamer ! " she exclaimed with fine scorn ; " are 
dreamers ever ambitious ? " 

" Indeed, they are the most truly ambitious," I retorted ; 
" their dreams are so vast, so infinite, so far beyond all 
puny human strength and capacity that they, perforce, 
must remain dreamers always. Epictetus himself — " 

" I wish," sighed Charmian, " I do wish — " 

"What do you wish?" 

" That you were not — " 

" That I was not? " 

"Such a — pedant!" 

" Pedant ! " said I, somewhat disconcerted. 

" And you have a way of echoing my words that is very 
irritating." 

" I beg your pardon," said I, feeling much like a chidden 
schoolboy ; " and I am sorry you should think me a 
pedant." 

" And you are so dreadfully precise and serious," she 
continued. 

"Am I, Charmian?" 

" And so very solemn and austere, and so ponderous, 
and egotistical, and calm — yes, you are hatefully calm 
and placid, are n't you, Peter ? " 

And, after I had smoked thoughtfully awhile, I sighed. 



Who Comes? 295 

" Yes, I fear I may seem so." 

" Oh, I forgive you ! " 

" Thank you." 

" Though you need n't be so annoyingly humble about 
it," said she, and frowned, and, even while she frowned, 
laughed and shook her head. 

" And pray, why do you laugh ? " 

" Because — oh, Peter, you are such a — boy ! " 

" So you told me once before," said I, bitmg my pipe- 
stem viciously. 

" Did I, Peter? " 

" You also called me a — lamb, I remember — at least, 
you suggested it." 

" Did I, Peter ? " and she began to laugh again, but 
stopped all at once and rose to her feet. 

" Peter ! " said she, with a startled note in her voice, 
" don't you hear something? " 

" Yes," said I. 

" Some one is coming ! " 

" Yes." 

" And — they are coming this way ! " 

" Yes." 

" Oh — how can you sit there so quietly ? Do you 
think — " she began, and stopped, staring into the shadows 
with wide eyes. 

" I think," said I, knocking the ashes from my pipe, 
and laying it on the bench beside me, " that, all things 
considered, you were wiser to go into the cottage for a 
while." 

" No — oh, I could n't do that ! " 

" You would be safer, perhaps." 

" I am not a coward. I shall remain here, of course." 

" But I had rather you went inside." 

" And I much prefer staying where I am." 

" Then I must ask you to go inside, Charmian." 

" No, indeed, my mind is made up." 

" Then I insist, Charmian." 

u Mr. Vibart ! " she exclaimed, throwing up her head, 



296 The Broad Highway 

" you forget yourself, I think. I permit no one to order 
my going and coming, and I obey no man's command." 

" Then — I beg of you." 

" And I refuse, sir — my mind is made up." 

" And mine also ! " said I, rising. 

" Why, what — what are you going to do ? " she cried, 
retreating as I advanced towards her. 

" I am going to carry you into the cottage." 

" You would not dare ! " 

" If you refuse to walk, how else can you get there ? " 
said I. 

Anger, amazement, indignation, all these I saw in her 
eyes as she faced me, but anger most of all. 

" Oh — you would not dare ! " she said again, and with 
a stamp of her foot. 

" Indeed, yes," I nodded. And now her glance wavered 
beneath mine, her head drooped, and, with a strange little 
sound that was neither a laugh nor a sob, and yet some- 
thing of each, she turned upon her heel, ran into the cot- 
tage, and slammed the door behind her. 



CHAPTER XIII 

A PEDLER IN ARCADIA 

The cottage, as I have said, was entirely hidden from the 
chance observer by reason of the foliage: ash, alder, and 
bramble flourished luxuriantly, growing very thick and 
high, with here and there a great tree ; but, upon one side, 
there was a little grassy glade, or clearing rather, some 
ten yards square, and it was towards this that my eyes 
were directed as I reseated myself upon the settle beside 
the door, and waited the coming of the unknown. 

Though the shadows were too deep for my eyes to serve 
me, yet I could follow the newcomer's approach quite easily 
by the sound he made; indeed, I was particularly struck 
by the prodigious rustling of leaves. Whoever it was must 
be big and bulky, I thought, and clad, probably, in a long, 
trailing garment. 

All at once I knew I was observed, for the sounds ceased, 
and I heard nothing save the distant bark of a dog and the 
ripple of the brook near by. 

I remained there for, maybe, a full minute, very still, 
only my fists clenched themselves as I sat listening and 
waiting — and that minute was an hour. 

" You won't be wan tin' ever a broom, now? " 

The relief was so sudden and intense that I hatl much 
ado to keep from laughing outright. 

" You won't be wantin' ever a broom, now ? " inquired 
the voice again. 

" No," I answered, " nor yet a fine leather belt with a 
steel buckle made in Brummagem as ever was/' 

" Oh, it 's you, is it? " said the Pedler, and forthwith 



298 The Broad Highway 

Gabbing Dick stepped out of the shadows, brooms on 
shoulder and bulging pack upon his back, at sight of which 
the leafy tumult of his approach was immediately ac- 
counted for. " So it 's you, is it ? " he repeated, setting 
down his brooms and spitting lugubriously at the nearest 
patch of shadow. 

" Yes," I answered, " but what brings you here? " 

" I be goin' to sleep 'ere, my chap." 

" Oh*! — you don't mind the ghost, then ? " 

" Oh, Lord, no ! Theer be only two things as I ean't 
abide — trees as ain't trees is one on em, an' women 's t' 
other." 

* Women?" 

" Come, did n't I once tell you I were married ? " 

" You did." 

« Very well then ! Trees as ain't trees is bad enough, 
Lord knows ! — but women 's worse — ah ! " said the Ped- 
ler, shaking his head, " a sight worse ! Ye see, trees ain't 
got tongues — leastways not as I ever heerd tell on, an' a 
tree never told a lie — or ate a apple, did it? " 

" What do you mean by ' ate an apple ' ? " 

" I means as a tree can't tell a lie, or eat a apple, but 
a woman can tell a lie — which she does — frequent, an' as 
for apples — " 

" But — " I began. 

" Eve ate a apple, did n't she ? " 

" The Scriptures say so," I nodded. 

" An' told a lie arterwards, did n't she? " 

" So we are given to understand." 

" Very well then ! " said the Pedler, " there y' are ! " and 
he turned to spit into the shadow again. " Wot 's more," 
he continued, " 't were a woman as done me out o' my 
birthright." 

"How so?" 

" Why, 't were Eve as got us druv out o' the Gardin o* 
Eden, were n't it ? If it 'ad n't bee* for Eve I might ha' 
been livin' on milk an' 'oney, ah ! an' playin' wi' butterflies, 
'stead o' bein' married, an' peddlin' these 'ere brooms. 



A Pedler in Arcadia 299 

Don't talk to me o' women, my chap ; I can't abide 'em — 
bah ! if theer 's any trouble afoot you may take your Bible 
oath as theer 's a woman about some'eres — theer alius 
is!" 

" Do you think so? " 

" I knows so ; ain't I a-'earin' an' a-seein' such all day, 
an' every day — theer 's Black Jarge, for one." 

"What about him?" 

" What about 'im ! " repeated the Pedler ; " w'y, ain't 
'is life been ruined, broke, wore away by one o' them Eves ? 
— very well then ! " 

** What do you mean — how has his life been ruined? " 

" Oh ! the usual way of it ; Jarge loves a gell — gell 
loves Jarge — sugar ain't sweeter — very well then ! 
Along comes another cove — a strange cove — a cove wi' 
nice white 'ands an' soft, takin' ways — 'e talks wi' 'er — 
walks wi' 'er — smiles at 'er — an' pore Jarge ain't no- 
wheeres — pore Jarge's cake is dough — ah ! an' doughy 
dough at that ! " 

" How do you come to know all this ? " 

" 'Ow should I come to know it but from the man 'isself ? 
6 Dick,' says 'e " (baptismal name Richard, but Dick for 
short), " 6 Dick,' says 'e, * d' ye see this 'ere stick? ' an' 'e 
shows me a good, stout cudgel cut out o' th' 'edge, an' very 
neatly trimmed it were too. ' Ah ! I sees it, Jarge,' says I. 
6 An' d' ye see this un ? ' says 'e, 'oldin' up another as like 
the first as one pea to its fellow. ' Ah ! I sees that un too, 
Jarge,' says I. 6 Well,' says Jarge, ' one 's for 'im an' 
one 's for me — 'e can take 'is chice,' 'e says, ' an' when we 
do meet, it 's a-goin' to be one or t' other of us,' 'e says, 
an' wot 's more — 'e looked it ! ' If I 'ave to wait, an' wait, 
an' foller 'im, an' f oiler 'im,' says Jarge, ? I '11 catch 'im 
alone, one o' these fine nights, an' it '11 be man to man.' " 

" And when did he tell you all this? " 

" 'S marnin' as ever was." 

" Where did you see him ? " 

" Oh, no ! " said the Pedler, shaking his head, u not by- 
no manner o' means. I 'm married, but I ain't that kind 
of a cove ! " 



3 co The Broad Highway 

" What do you mean ? " 

" The runners is arter 'im — lookin' for 'im 'igh an' low, 
an' — though married, I ain't one to give a man away. I 
ain't a friendly cove myself, never was, an' never shall be 

— never 'ad a friend all my days, an' don't want one — 
but I likes Black Jarge — I pities, an' I despises 'im." 

" Why do you despise him ? " 

" Because 'e carries on so, all about a Eve — w'y, theer 
ain't a woman breathin' as is worth a man's troublin' 'is 
'ead over, no, nor never will be — yet 'ere 's Black Jarge 
ready — ah ! an' more than willin' to get 'isself 'ung, an' 
all for a wench — a Eve — " 

" Get himself hanged? " I repeated. 

" Ah — 'ung ! w'y, ain't 'e a-waitin' an' a-waitin' to get 
at this cove — this cove wi' the nice white 'ands an' the 
takin' ways, ain't 'e a-watchin' an' a-watchin' to meet 'im 
some lonely .night — and when 'e do meet 'im — " The 
Pedler sighed. 

"Well?" 

" W'y, there '11 be blood shed — blood ! — quarts on it 

— buckets on it ! Black Jarge '11 batter this 'ere cove's 
'ead soft, so sure as I were baptized Richard — 'e '11 lift 
this cove up in 'is great, strong arms, an' 'e '11 throw this 
cove down, an' 'e '11 gore 'im, an' stamp 'im down under 'is 
feet, an' this cove's blood '11 go soakin' an' a-soakin' into 
the grass, some'eres beneath some 'edge, or in some quiet 
corner o' the woods — and the birds '11 perch on this cove's 
breast, an' flutter their wings in this cove's face, 'cause 
they '11 know as this cove can never do nobody no 'urt no 
more ; ah ! there 11 be blood — gallons of it ! " 

" I hope not ! " said I. 
"Ye do, do ye?" 
" Most fervently ! " 
" An' 'cause why ? " 

" Because I happen to be that cove," I answered. 
" Oh ! " said the Pedler, eyeing me more narrowly ; 
* you are, are ye? " 
"lam!" 



A Pedler in Arcadia 301 

" Yet you ain't got w'ite 'ands." 

" They were white once," said I. 

" An' I don't see as your ways is soft — nor yet — 
takin' ! " 

" None the less, I am that cove ! " 

" Oh ! " repeated the Pedler, and, having turned this 
intelligence over in his mind, spat thoughtfully into the 
shadow again. " You won't be wantin' ever a broom, I 
think you said? " 

" No," said I. 

" Very well then ! " he nodded, and, lifting his brooms, 
made towards the cottage door! 

" Where are you going ? " 

" To sleep in this 'ere empty 'ut." 

" But it is n't empty ! " 

" So much the better," nodded the Pedler, " good 
night ! " and, with the words, he laid his hand upon the 
door, but, as he did so, it opened, and Charmian appeared. 
The Pedler fell back three or four paces, staring with 
round eyes. 

" By Goles ! " he exclaimed. " So you are married then? " 

Now, when he said this I felt suddenly hot all over, even 
to the very tips of my ears, and, for the life of me, I could 
not have looked at Charmian. 

" Why — why — "I began, but her smooth, soft voice 
came to my rescue. 

" No — he is not married," said she, " far from it." 

" Not ? " said the Pedler, " so much the better ; mar- 
riage ain't love, no, nor love ain't marriage — I 'm a mar- 
ried cove myself, so I know what I 'm a-sayin' ; if folk do 
talk, an' shake their 'eads over ye — w'y, let 'em, only 
don't — don't go a-spilin' things by gettin' ' churched.' 
You 're a woman, but you 're a fine un — a dasher, by 
Goles, nice an' straight-backed, an' round, an' plump — 
if I was this 'ere cove, now, I know what — " 

" Here," said I hastily, " here — sell me a broom ! " 

The Pedler drew a broom from his bundle and passed 
it to me. 



302 The Broad Highway 

" One shillin' and sixpence ! " said he, which sum I duly 
paid over. "Don't," he continued, pocketing the money, 
and turning to Charmian, " don't go spilin' things by 
lettin' this young cove go a-marryin' an' a-churchin' ye 
— - nobody never got married as did n't repent it some 
time or other, an' wot 's more, when Marriage comes in 
at the door, Love flies out up the chimbley — an' there y' 
are! Now, if you loves this young cove, w'y, very good! 
if this 'ere young cove loves you — which ain't to be 
wondered at — so much the better, but don't — don't go 
a-marryin' each other, an' — as for the children — " 

" Come — I '11 take a belt — give me a belt ! " said I, 
more hastily than before. 

"A belt?" said the Pedler. 

" A belt, yes." 

" Wi' a fine steel buckle made in — " 

"Yes — yes!" said I. 

" Two shillin' an' sixpence ! " said the Pedler. 

" When I saw you last time, you offered much the same 
belt for a shilling," I demurred. 

" Ah ! " nodded the Pedler, " but belts is riz — 'arf-a- 
crown 's the price — take it or leave it." 

" It 's getting late," said I, slipping the money into his 
hand, " and I '11 wish you good night ! " 

" You 're in a 'urry about it, ain't you ? " 

" Yes." 

" Ah — to be sure ! " nodded the fellow, looking from 
me to Charmian with an evil leer, " early to bed an' — " 

" Come — get off ! " said I angrily. 

" Wot — are ye goin' to turn me away — at this time 
o' night!" 

" It is not so far to Sissinghurst ! " said I. 

" But, Lord ! I would n't disturb ye — an' there 's two 
rooms, ain't there? " 

" There are plenty of comfortable beds to be had at 
6 The Bull.' " 

" So you won't gi'e me a night's shelter, eh? " 

" No," I answered, greatly annoyed by the fellow's 
persistence. 



A Pedler in Arcadia 303 

" An' you don't want to buy nothin' for the young 
woman — a necklace — or, say — a pair o' garters ? " 
But here, meeting my eye, he shouldered his brooms hastily 
and moved off. And, after he had gone some dozen yards 
or so, he paused and turned. 

" Very well then ! " he shouted, " I 'opes as you gets 
your 'ead knocked off — ah ! — an' gets it knocked off — 
soon ! " Having said which, he spat up into the air 
towards me, and trudged off. 



CHAPTER XIV 



It was with a feeling of great relief that I watched the 
fellow out of sight; nevertheless his very presence seemed 
to have left a blight upon all things, for he, viewing mat- 
ters with the material eye of Common-sense, had, therebv, 
contaminated them — even the air seemed less pure and 
sweet than it had been heretofore, so that, glancing over 
my shoulder, I was glad to see that Charmian had re- 
entered the cottage. 

" Here," said I to myself, " here is Common-sense in 
the shape of a half-witted peddling fellow, blundering into 
Arcadia, in the shape of a haunted cottage, a woman, and 
a man. Straightway our Pedler, being Common-sense, 
misjudges us — as, indeed, would every other common- 
sense individual the world over; for Arcadia, being of it- 
self abstract and immaterial, is opposed to, and incapable 
of being understood by concrete common-sense, and always 
will be — and there 's the rub ! And yet," said I, " thanks 
to the Wanderer of the Roads, who built this cottage and 
hanged himself here, and thanks to a Highland Scot who 
performed wonderfully on the bagpipes, there is little 
chance of any common-sense vagrant venturing near 
Arcadia again — at least until the woman is gone, or the 
man is gone, or — " 

Here, going to rub my chin (being somewhat at a loss), 
I found that I had been standing, all this while, the broom 
in one hand and the belt in the other, and now, hearing a 
laugh behind me, I turned, and saw Charmian was leaning 
in the open doorway watching me. 



'Black George's Letter 305 

" And so you are the — the cove — with the white 
hands and the taking ways, are you, Peter? " 

"Why — you were actually — listening then?" 

" Why, of course I was." 

" That," said I, " that was very — undignified ! " 

" But very — feminine, Peter ! " Hereupon I threw 
the belt from me one way, and the broom the other, and 
sitting down upon the bench began to fill my pipe — 
rather awkwardly, being conscious of Charmian's mocking 
scrutiny. 

" Poor — poor Black George ! " she sighed. 

" What do you mean by that? " said I quickly. 

" Really I can almost understand his being angry with 
you." 

"Why?" 

"You walked with her, and talked with her, Peter — 
like Caesar, s you came, you saw, you conquered ' ! " 

Here I dragged my tinder-box from my pocket so awk- 
wardly as to bring the lining with it. 

" And — even smiled at her, Peter — and you so rarely 
smile!" 

Having struck flint and steel several times without suc- 
cess, I thrust the tinder-box back into my pocket and 
fixed my gaze upon the moon. 

" Is she so very pretty, Peter ? " 

I stared up at the moon without answering. 

" I wonder if you bother her with your Epictetus and 
— and dry-as-dust quotations ? " 

I bit my lips and stared up at the moon. 

" Or perhaps she likes your musty books and phi- 
losophy? " 

But presently, finding that I would not speak, Charmian 
began to sing, very sweet and low, as if to herself, yet, 
when I chanced to glance towards her, I found her mock- 
ing eyes still watching me. Now the words of her song 

were these: 

" O, my luve 's like a red, red rose, 
That's newly sprung in June; 
O, my luve 's like the melodie 
That 's sweetly played in tune." 



306 The Broad Highway 

And so, at last, unable to bear it any longer, I rose 
and, taking my candle, went into my room and closed the 
door. But I had been there scarcely five minutes when 
Charmian knocked. 

" Oh, Peter ! I wish to speak to you — please." Obe- 
diently I opened the door. 

"What is it, Charmian?" 

" You dropped this from your pocket when yon took 
out your tinder-box so clumsily ! " said she, holding 
towards me a crumpled paper. And looking down at it, 
I saw that it was Black George's letter to Prudence. 

Now, as I took it from her, I noticed that her hand 
trembled, while in her eyes I read fear and trouble; and 
seeing this, I was, for a moment, unwontedly glad, and 
then wondered at myself. 

"You — did not read it — of course?" said I, well 
knowing that she had. 

" Yes, Peter — it lay open, and — " 

" Then," said I, speaking my thought aloud, " you 
know that she loves George." 

" He means you harm," said she, speaking with her 
head averted, " and, if he killed you — " 

" I should be spared a deal of sorrow, and — and mor- 
tification, and — other people would be no longer bothered 
hy Epictetus and dry-as-dust quotations." She turned 
suddenly, and, crossing to the open doorway, stood lean- 
ing there. " But, indeed," I went on hurriedly, " there is 
no chance of such a thing happening — not the remotest. 
Black George's bark is a thousand times worse than his 
bite ; this letter means nothing, and — er — nothing at 
all," I ended, somewhat lamely, for she had turned and 
was looking at me over her shoulder. 

" If he has to ' wait and wait, and follow you and fol- 
low you ' ? " said she, in the same low tone. 

" Those are merely the words of a half-mad pedler," 
said I. 

" * And your blood will go soaking, and soaking into the 
grass ' ! " 



Black George's Letter 307 

" Our Pedler has a vivid imagination ! " said I lightly. 
But she shook her head, and turned to look out upon the 
beauty of the night once more, while I watched her, chin 
in hand. 

" I was angry with you to-night, Peter," said she at 
length, " because you ordered me to do something against 
my will — and I — did it ; and so, I tried to torment you 
— you will forgive me for that, won't you ? " 

" There is nothing to forgive, nothing, and — good 
night, Charmian." Here she turned, and, coming to me, 
gave me her hand. 

" Charmian Brown will always think of you as a — " 

"Blacksmith!" said I. 

" As a blacksmith ! " she repeated, looking at me with 
a gleam in her eyes, " but oftener as a — " 

"Pedant!" said I. 

"As a pedant!" she repeated obediently, "but most 
of all as a — - " 

"Well?" said I. 

"As a — man," she ended, speaking with bent head. 
And here again I was possessed of a sudden gladness that 
was out of all reason, as I immediately told myself. 

" Your hand is very small," said I, finding nothing 
better to say, " smaller even than I thought." 

" Is it? " and she smiled and glanced up at me beneath 
her lashes, for her head was still bent. 

" And wonderfully smooth and soft ! " 

" Is it? " said she again, but this time she did not look 
up at me. Now another man might have stooped and 
kissed those slender, shapely fingers — but, as for me, 
I loosed them, rather suddenly, and, once more bidding 
her good night, re-entered my own chamber, and closed the 
door. 

But to-night, lying upon my bed, I could not sleep, and 
fell to watching the luminous patch of sky framed in my 
open casement. I thought of Charmian, of her beauty, 
of her strange whims and fancies, her swift-changing 
moods and her contrariness, comparing her, in turn, to 



308 The Broad Highway 

all those fair women I had ever read of or dreamed over 
in my books. Little by little, however, my thoughts 
drifted to Gabbing Dick and Black George, and, with my 
mind's eye, I could see him as he was (perhaps at this very 
moment), fierce-eyed and grim of mouth, sitting beneath 
some hedgerow, while, knife* in hand, he trimmed and 
trimmed his two bludgeons, one of which was to batter the 
life out of me. From such disquieting reflections I would 
turn my mind to sweet-eyed Prudence, to the Ancient, the 
forge, and the thousand and one duties of the morrow. 
I bethought me, once more, of the storm, of the coming 
of Charmian, of the fierce struggle in the dark, of the 
Postilion, and of Charmian again. And yet, in despite of 
me, my thoughts would revert to George, and I would see 
myself even as the Pedler pictured me, out in some se- 
cluded corner of the woods, lying stiffly upon my back with 
glassy eyes staring up sightlessly through the whispering 
leaves above, while my blood soaked and soaked into the 
green, and with a blackbird singing gloriously upon my 
motionless breast. 



CHAPTER XV 

WHICH, BEENG IN PARENTHESIS, MAY BE SKIPPED IP 
THE READER SO DESIRE 

As this life is a Broad Highway along which we must all 
of us pass whether we will or no ; as it is a thoroughfare 
sometimes very hard and cruel in the going, and beset 
by many hardships, sometimes desolate and hatefully mo- 
notonous, so, also, must its aspect, sooner or later, change 
for the better, and, the stony track overpassed, the chok- 
ing heat and dust left behind, we may reach some green, 
refreshing haven shady with trees, and full of the cool, 
sweet sound of running waters. Then who shall blame us 
if we pause unduly in this grateful shade, and, lying upon 
our backs a while, gaze up through the swaying green of 
trees to the infinite blue beyond, ere we journey on once 
more, as soon we must, to front whatsoever of good or evil 
lies waiting for us in the hazy distance. 

To just such a place am I now come in this, my history ; 
the record of a period which I, afterwards, remembered as 
the happiest I had ever known, the memory of which must 
remain with me, green and fragrant everlastingly. 

If, in the forthcoming pages, you shall find over-much 
of Charmian, I would say, in the first place, that it is 
by her, and upon her, that this narrative hangs ; and, in 
the second place, that in this part of my story I find my 
greatest pleasure; though here, indeed, I am faced with 
a great difficulty, seeing that I must depict, as faithfully 
as may be, that most difficult, that most elusive of all 
created things, to wit — a woman. 



310 The Broad Highway 

Truly, I begin to fear lest my pen fail me altogether 
for the very reason that it is of Charmian that I would 
tell, and of Charmian I understand little more than noth- 
ing ; for what rule has ever been devised whereby a woman's 
mind may be accurately gauged, and who of all those wise 
ones who have written hitherto — poets, romancers, or his- 
torians — has ever fathomed the why and wherefore of 
the Mind Feminine? 

A fool indeed were I to attempt a thing impossible; I 
do but seek to show her to you as I saw her, and to de- 
scribe her in so far as I learned to know her. 

And yet, how may I begin? I might tell you that her 
nose was neither arched nor straight, but perfect, none 
the less ; I might tell you of her brows, straight and low, 
of her eyes, long and heavy-lashed, of her chin, firm and 
round and dimpled ; and yet, that would not be Charmian. 
For I could not paint you the scarlet witchery of her 
mouth with its sudden, bewildering changes, nor show you 
how sweetly the lower lip curved up to meet its mate. I 
might tell you that to look into her eyes was like gazing 
down into very deep water, but I could never give you 
their varying beauty, nor the way she had with her lashes ; 
nor can I ever describe her rich, warm coloring, nor the 
lithe grace of her body. 

Thus it is that I misdoubt my pen of its task, and fear 
that, when you shall have read these pages, you shall, at 
best, have caught but a very imperfect reflection of Char- 
mian as she really is. 

Wherefore, I will waste no more time or paper upon 
so unprofitable a task, but hurry on with my narrative, 
leaving you to find her out as best you may. 



CHAPTER XVI 

CONCERNING, AMONG OTHER MATTERS, THE PRICE OF BEEF, 
AND THE LADY SOPHIA SEFTON OF CAMBOURNE 

Charmian sighed, bit the end of her pen, and sighed again. 
She was deep in her housekeeping accounts, adding and 
subtracting and, between whiles, regarding the result with 
a rueful frown. 

Her sleeves were rolled up over her round, white arms, 
and I inwardly wondered if the much vaunted Phryne's 
were ever more perfect in their modelling, or of a fairer 
texture. Had I possessed the genius of a Praxiteles I 
might have given to the world a masterpiece of beauty 
to replace his vanished Venus of Cnidus; but, as it hap- 
pened, I was only a humble blacksmith, and she a fair 
woman who sighed, and nibbled her pen, and sighed again- 

"What is it, Charmian?" 

" Compound addition, Peter, and I hate figures — I 
detest, loathe, and abominate them — especially when they 
won*t balance!" 

" Then never mind them," said I. 

"Never mind them, indeed — the idea, sir! How can 
I help minding them when living costs so much and we 
so poor? " 

" Are we ? " said I. 

" Why, of course we are." 

" Yes — to be sure — I suppose we are," said I dreamily^ 

Lais was beautiful, Thais was alluring, and Berenice 
was famous for her beauty, but then, could either of them 
have shown such arms — so long, so graceful in their every 



312 The Broad Highway 

movement, so subtly rounded in their lines, arms which, 
for all their seeming firmness, must (I thought) be won- 
derfully soft to the touch, and smooth as ivory, and which 
found a delicate sheen where the light kissed them? 

" We have spent four shillings for meat this week, 
Peter ! " said Charmian, glancing up suddenly. 

"Good!" said I. 

" Nonsense, sir — four shillings is most extravagant ! " 

" Oh ! — is it, Charmian ? " 

" Why, of course it is." 

" Oh ! " said I ; " yes — perhaps it is." 

" Perhaps ! " said she, curling her lip at me, " perhaps, 
indeed ! " Having said which, Charmian became absorbed 
in her accounts again, and I in Charmian. 

In Homer we may read that the loveliness of Briseis 
caused Achilles much sorrow ; Ovid tells us that Chione 
was beautiful enough to inflame two gods, and that An- 
tiope's beauty drew down from heaven the mighty Jove 
himself; and yet, was either of them formed and shaped 
more splendidly than she who sat so near me, frowning 
at what she had written, and petulantly biting her pen? 

" Impossible ! " said I, so suddenly that Charmian started 
and dropped her pen, which I picked up, feeling very like 
a fool. 

" What did you mean by ' impossible,' Peter? " 

" I was — thinking merely." 

" Then I wish you would n't think so suddenly next 
time." 

" I beg your pardon." 

" Nor be so very emphatic about it." 

" No," said I, " er — no." Hereupon, deigning to re- 
ceive her pen back again, she recommenced her figuring, 
while I began to fill my pipe. 

" Two shillings for tea ! " 

"Excellent!" said I. 

"I do wish," she sighed, raising her head to shake it 
reproachfully at me, " that you would be a little more 
sensible." 



Concerning Many Matters 313 

" I '11 try." 

" Tea at twelve shillings a pound is a luxury ! " 

"Undoubtedly!" 

" And to pay two shillings for a luxury when we are so 
poor — is sinful ! " 

"Is it, Charmian?" 

" Of course it is." 

" Oh ! " said I ; " and yet, life without tea — more espe- 
cially as you brew it — would be very stale, flat, and un- 
profitable, and — " 

" Bacon and eggs — one shilling and fourpence ! " she 
went on, consulting her accounts. 

" Ah ! " said I, not venturing on " good," this time. 

" Butter — one shilling ! " 

u Hum ! " said I cautiously, and with the air of turning 
this over in my mind. 

" Vegetables — tenpence ! " 

" To be sure," said I, nodding my head, " tenpence, 
certainly." 

" And bread, Peter " (this in a voice of tragedy) " — • 
eightpence." 

"Excellent!" said I recklessly, whereat Charmian im- 
mediately frowned at me. 

" Oh, Peter ! " said she, with a sigh of resignation, " you 
possess absolutely no idea of proportion. Here we pay 
four shillings for meat, and only eightpence for bread; 
had we spent less on luxuries and more on necessaries we 
should have had money in hand instead of — let me see ! "" 
end she began adding up the various items before her with 
soft, quick little pats of her fingers on the table. Pres- 
ently, having found the total, she leaned back in her chair 
and, summoning my attention with a tap of her pen, 
announced : 

" We have spent nine shillings and tenpence, Peter ! H 

"Good, indeed!" said I. 

" Leaving exactly — twopence over." 

" A penny for you, and a penny for me." 

" I fear I am a very bad housekeeper, Peter." 



314 The Broad Highway 

" On the contrary." 

" You earn ten shillings a week," 

" Well? " 

u And here is exactly — twopence left — oh, Peter ! " 

" You are forgetting the tea and the beef, and — and 
the other luxuries," said I, struck by the droop of her 
mouth. 

" But you work so very, very hard, and earn so little — - 
and that little — " 

" I work that I may live, Charmian, and lo ! I am alive." 

" And dreadfully poor ! " 

" And ridiculously happy." 

" I wonder why? " said she, beginning to draw designs 
on the page before her. 

" Indeed, though I have asked myself that question fre- 
quently of late, I have as yet found no answer, unless it 
be my busy, care-free life, with the warm sun about me 
and the voice of the wind in the trees." 

" Yes, perhaps that is it." 

" And yet I don't know," I went on thoughtfully, " for 
now I come to think of it, my life has always been busy 
and care-free, and I have always loved the sun and the 
sound of wind in trees — yet, like Horace, have asked 
' What is Happiness? ' and looked for it in vain ; and 
now, here — in this out-of-the-world spot, working as a 
village smith, it has come to me all unbidden and un- 
sought — which is very strange ! " 

" Yes, Peter," said Charmian, still busy with her pen. 

" Upon consideration I think my thanks are due to my 
uncle for dying and leaving me penniless." 

" Do you mean that he disinherited you ? " 

" In a way, yes ;- he left me his whole fortune provided 
that I married a certain lady within the year." 

"A certain lady?" 

" The Lady Sophia Sefton, of Cambourne," said I. 

Charmian's pen stopped in the very middle of a let- 
ter, and she bent down to examine what she had been 
writing. 



Concerning Many Matters 315 

" Oh ! " said she very softly, " the Lady Sophia Sef ton 
of Cambourne? " 

" Yes," said I. 

" And — your cousin — Sir Maurice — were the condi- 
tions the same in his case? " 

" Precisely ! " 

"Oh!" said Charmian, just as softly as before, " and 
this lady — she will not — marry you ? " 

" No," I answered. 

" Are you quite — sure ? " 

" Certain ! — you see, I never intend to ask her." 

Charmian suddenly raised her head and looked at me. 

" Why not, Peter? " 

" Because, should I ever marry — a remote contingency, 
and most improbable — I am sufficiently self-willed to prefer 
to exert my own choice in the matter ; moreover, this lady 
is a celebrated toast, and it would be most repugnant to 
me that my wife's name should ever have been bandied 
from mouth to mouth, and hiccoughed out over slopping 
wineglasses — " 

The pen slipped from Charmian's fingers to the floor, 
and before I could pick it up she had forestalled me, so 
that when she raised her head she was flushed with 
stooping. 

" Have you ever seen this lady, Peter? " 

" Never, but I have heard of her — who has not ? " 

" What have you heard ? " 

" That she galloped her horse up and down the steps 
of St. Paul's Cathedral, for one thing." 

"What more?" 

" That she is proud, and passionate, and sudden of 
temper — in a word, a virago ! " 

" Virago ! " said Charmian, flinging up her head. 

" Virago ! " I nodded, " though she is handsome, I un- 
derstand — in a strapping way — and I have it on very 
excellent authority that she is a black-browed goddess, a 
peach, and a veritable plum." 

" * Strapping ' is a hateful word, Peter ! " 



316 The Broad Highway 

" But very descriptive." 

" And — does n't she interest you — a little, Peter? " 

" Not in the least," said I. 

" And, pray, why not? " 

" Because I care very little for either peaches or 
plums." 

" Or black-browed goddesses, Peter? " 

" Not if she is big and strapping, and possesses a 
temper." 

" I suppose — to such a philosopher as you — a woman 
or a goddess, black-browed or not, can scarcely compare 
with, or hope to rival an old book, can she, sir? " 

" Why, that depends, Charmkn." 

"On what?" 

"On the book!" said I. 

Charmian rested her round elbows upon the table, and, 
setting her chin in her hands, stared squarely at me. 

" Peter," said she. 

" Yes, Charmian? " 

" If ever you did meet this lady — I think — " 

" Well? " 

"I know — " 

"What?" 

" That you would fall a very easy victim ! " 

" I think not," said I. 

" You would be her slave in — a month — three weeks 
— or much less — " 

" Preposterous ! " I exclaimed. 

" If she set herself to make you ! " 

" That would be very immodest ! " said I ; " besides, no 
woman can make a man love her." 

" Do your books teach you that, Peter? " Here, find- 
ing I did not answer, she laughed and nodded her head at 
me. " You would be head over ears in love before you 
knew it ! " 

" I think not," said I, smiling. 

" You are the kind of man who would grow sick with 
love, and never know what ailed him." 



Concerning Many Matters 317 

" Any man in such a condition would be a pitiful ass ! " 
said I. 

Charmian only laughed at me again, and went back to> 
her scribbling. 

" Then, if this lady married you," said she suddenly,. 
" you would be a gentleman of good position and 
standing? " 

" Yes, I suppose so — and probably miserable." 

" And rich, Peter? " 

" I should have more than enough." 

" Instead of being a village blacksmith — " 

"With just enough, and absurdly happy and content," 
I added, " which is far more desirable — at least I think 
so." 

" Do you mean to say that you would rather — exist 
here, and make horseshoes all your life, than — live, re- 
spected, and rich." 

" And married to — " 

" And married to the Lady Sophia ? " 

"Infinitely!" said I. 

" Then your cousin, so far as you are concerned, is free 
to woo and win her and your uncle's fortune? " 

" And I wish him well of his bargain ! " I nodded. " As* 
for me, I shall probably continue to live here, and make 
horseshoes — wifeless and content." 

" Is marriage so hateful to you? " 

" In the abstract — no ; for in my mind there exists a 
woman whom I think I could love — very greatly ; but, 
in the actual — yes, because there is no woman in all the 
world that is like this woman of my mind." 

" Is she so flawlessly perfect — this imaginary woman? " 

" She is one whom I would respect for her intellect." 

" Yes." 

" Whom I would honor for her proud virtue." 

" Yes, Peter." 

" Whom I would worship for her broad charity, hei? 
gentleness, and spotless purity." 

" Yes, Peter." 



3 1 8 The Broad Highway 

" And love with all my strength, for her warm, sweet 
womanhood — in a word, she is the epitome of all that is 
true and womanly ! " 

" That is to say — as you understand such things, sir, 
and all your knowledge of woman, and her virtues and fail- 
ings, you have learned from your books, therefore, mis- 
represented by history, and distorted by romance, it is 
utterly false and unreal. And, of course, this imaginary 
creature of yours is ethereal, bloodless, sexless, unnatural, 
and quite impossible ! " 

I^ow, when she spoke thus, I laid down my pipe and 
stared, but, before I could get my breath, she began again, 
with curling lip and lashes that drooped disdainfully. 

" I quite understand that there can be no woman worthy 
of Mr. Peter Vibart — she whom he would honor with 
marriage must be specially created for him ! Ah ! but some 
day a woman — a real, live woman — will come into his 
life, and the touch of her hand, the glance of her eyes, the 
warmth of her breath, will dispel this poor, flaccid, misty 
creature of his imagination, who will fade and fade, and 
vanish into nothingness. And when the real woman has 
shown him how utterly false and impossible this dream 
woman was — then, Mr. Peter Vibart, I hope she will laugh 
at you — as I do, and turn her back upon you — as I do, 
and leave you — for the very superior, very pedantic 
pedant that you are — and scorn you — as I do, most of 
all because you are merely a — creature ! " With the word, 
she flung up her head and stamped her foot at me, and 
turning, swept out through the open door into the 
moonlight. 

" Creature ? " said I, and so sat staring at the table, 
and the walls, and the floor, and the rafters in a blank 
amazement. 

But in a while, my amazement growing, I went and 
stood in the doorway, looking at Charmian, but saying 
nothing. 

And, as I watched, she began to sing softly to herself, 
and, putting up her hand, drew the comb from her hair so 



Concerning Many Matters 319 

that it fell down, rippling about her neck and shoulders. 
And, singing softly thus, she shook her hair about her, so 
that I saw it curled far below her waist ; stooped her head, 
and, parting it upon her neck, drew it over either shoulder^ 
whence it flowed far down over her bosom in two glorious 
waves, for the moon, peeping through the rift in the leaves 
above, sent down her beams to wake small fires in it, that 
came and went, and winked with her breathing. 

" Charmian, you have glorious hair ! " said I, speaking 
on the impulse — a thing I rarely do. 

But Charmian only combed her tresses, and went on sing- 
ing to herself. 

" Charmian," said I again, " what did you mean when 
you called me a — creature? " 

Charmian went on singing. 

" You called me a 6 pedant ' once before ; to be told that 
I am superior, also, is most disquieting. I fear my manner 
must be very unfortunate to afford you such an opinion 
of me." 

Charmian went on singing. 

" Naturally I am much perturbed, and doubly anxious 
to know what you wish me to understand by the epithet 
1 creature ' ? " 

Charmian went on singing. Wherefore, seeing she did 
not intend to answer me, I presently re-entered the cottage* 

Now it is ever my custom, when at all troubled or put 
out in any way, to seek consolation in my books, hence, I 
now took up my Homer, and, trimming the candles, sat 
down at the table. 

In a little while Charmian came in, still humming the air 
of her song, and not troubling even to glance in my 
direction. 

Some days before, at her request, I had brought her 
linen and lace and ribands from Cranbrook^ and these she 
now took out, together with needle and cotton, and, sitting 
down at the opposite side of the table, began to sew. 

She was still humming, and this of itself distracted my 
mind from the lines before me ; moreover, my eye was fas- 



3 2o The Broad Highway 

cinated by the gleam of her flying needle, and I began to 
"■debate within, myself what she was making. It (whatever 
ifc might be) was ruffled, and edged with lace, and caught 
3iere and there with little bows of blue riband, and, from 
these, and divers other evidences, I had concluded it to be 
a garment of some sort, and was casting about in my mind 
to account for these bows of riband, when, glancing up 
suddenly, she caught my eye ; whereupon, for no reason 
in tiie world, I felt suddenly guilty, to hide which I began 
to search through my pockets for my pipe. 

" On the mantelshelf ! " said she. 

« What is?" 

"Your pipe!" 

" Thank you ! " said I, and reached it down. 

" What are you reading? " she inquired; " is it of Helen 
or Aspasia or Phryne? " 

" Neither — it is the parting of Hector and Andro- 
mache," I answered. 

" Is it very interesting? " 

« Yes." 

" Then why do your eyes wander so often from the 
page? " 

" I know many of the lines by heart," said I. And hav- 
ing lighted my pipe, I took up the book, and once more 
began to read. Yet I was conscious, all the time, of Char- 
mian's flashing needle, also she had begun to hum again. 

And, after I had endeavored to read, and Charmian had 
hummed for perhaps five minutes, I lowered my book, and, 
sighing, glanced at her. 

" I am trying to read, Charmian." 

" So I see." 

*' And your humming confuses me." 

" It is very quiet outside, Peter." 

w But I cannot read by moonlight, Charmian." 

" Then — don't read, Peter." Here she nibbled her 
thread with white teeth, and held up what she had been 
sewing to view the effect of a bow of riband, with her 
head very much on one side. And I inwardly wondered 



Concerning Many Matters 321 

that she should spend so much care upon such frippery 
— all senseless bows and laces. 

" To hum is a very disturbing habit ! " said I. 

" To smoke an evil-smelling pipe is worse — much 
worse, Peter ! " 

" I beg your pardon ! " said I, and laid the offending 
object back upon the mantel. 

" Are you angry, Peter? " 

" Not in the least ; I am only sorry that my smoking 
annoyed you — had I known before — " 

" It did n't annoy me in the least ! " 

" But from what you said I understood — " 

" No, Peter, you did not understand ; you never un- 
derstand, and I don't think you ever will understand any- 
thing but your Helens and Phrynes — and your Latin 
and Greek philosophies, and that is what makes you so- 
very annoying, and so — so quaintly original ! " 

" But you certainly found fault with my pipe." 

" Naturally ! — did n't you find fault with my hum- 
ming? " 

" Really," said I, " really, I fail to see — " 

" Of course you do ! " sighed Charmian. Whereupon 
there fell a silence between us, during which she sewed 
industriously, and I went forth with brave Hector to face 
the mighty Achilles. But my eye had traversed barely. 
twenty lines when: 

" Peter? " 

"Yes?" 

" Do you remember my giving you a locket ? " 

" Yes." 

"Where is it?" 

" Oh ! I have it still — somewhere." 

"Somewhere, sir?" she repeated, glancing at me with 
raised brows. 

" Somewhere safe," said I ? fixing my eyes upon my 
book. 

" It had a riband attached, had n't it? " 

" Yes." 



322 The Broad Highway 

" A pink riband, if I remember — yes, pink." 

" No — it was blue ! " said I unguardedly. 

" Are you sure, Peter? " And here, glancing up, I 
saw that she was watching me beneath her lashes. 

"Yes," I answered; "that is — I think so." 

" Then you are not sure ? " 

" Yes, I am," said I ; "it was a blue riband," and I 
turned over a page very ostentatiously. 

" Oh ! " said Charmian, and there was another pause, 
during which 1 construed probably fifty lines or so. 

"Peter?" 

" Well? " 

" Where did you say it was now — my locket ? " 

" I did n't say it was anywhere." 

" No, you said it was ' somewhere ' — in a rather vague 
sort of way, Peter." 

" Well, perhaps I did," said I, frowning at my book. 

" It is not very valuable, but I prized it for associa- 
tion's sake, Peter." 

" Ah ! — yes, to be sure," said I, feigning to be wholly 
absorbed. 

" I was wondering if you ever — wear it, Peter? " 

" Wear it ! " I exclaimed, and glancing furtively down 
at myself, I was relieved to see that there were no signs 
of a betraying blue riband ; " wear it ! " said I again, 
" why should I wear it ? " 

" Why, indeed, Peter, unless it was because it was there 
to wear." Suddenly she uttered an exclamation of an- 
noyance, and, taking up a candle, began looking about 
the floor. 

" What have you lost? » 

" My needle ! I think it must have fallen under the table, 
and needles are precious in this wilderness; won't you 
please help me to find it? " 

" With pleasure ! " said I, getting down upon my hands 
and knees, and together we began to hunt for the lost 
needle. 

Now, in our search, it chanced that we drew near to- 



Concerning Many Matters 323 

gether, and once her hand touched mine, and once her soft 
hair brushed my cheek, and there stole over me a perfume 
like the breath of violets, the fragrance that I always 
associated with her, faint and sweet and alluring — so 
much so, that I drew back from further chance of contact, 
and kept my eyes directed to the floor. 

And, after I had sought vainly for some time, I raised 
my head and looked at Charmian, to find her regarding 
me with a very strange expression. 

" What is it ? " I inquired. " Have you found the 
needle? " Charmian sat back on her heels, and laughed 
softly. 

" Oh, yes, I 've found the needle, Peter, that is — I 
never lost it." 

" Why, then — what — what did you mean — ? " 

For answer, she raised her hand and pointed to my 
breast. Then, glancing hurriedly down, I saw that the 
locket had slipped forward through the bosom of my shirt, 
and hung in plain view. I made an instinctive movement 
to hide it, but, hearing her laugh, looked at her instead. 

" So this was why you asked me to stoop to find your 
needle?" 

" Yes, Peter." 

" Then you — knew ? " 

" Of course I knew." 

w Hum ! " said I. A distant clock chimed eleven, and 
Charmian began to fold away her work, seeing which, I 
rose, and took up my candle. " And — pray — " 

"Well?" 

" And, pray," said I, staring hard at the flame of my 
candle, " how did you happen to — find out — ? " 

" Very simply — I saw the riband round your neck 
days ago. Good night, Peter ! " 

" Oh," said I. " Good night ! " 



CHAPTER XVH 



THE OMEN 

1 My lady sweet, arise ! 
My lady sweet, arise 
With everything that pretty is, 
My lady sweet, arise; 
Arise, arise." 



It was morning, and Charmian was singing. The pure, 
rich notes floated in at my open lattice, and I heard 
the clatter of her pail as she went to fetch water from the 
brook. Wherefore I presently stepped out into the sun- 
shine, my coat and neckcloth across my arm, to plunge my 
head and face into the brook, and carry back the heavy 
bucket for her, as was my custom. 

Being come to the brook I found the brimming bucket, 
sure enough, but no Charmian. I was looking about won- 
deringly, when she began to sing again, and, guided by 
this, I espied her kneeling beside the stream. 

The water ran deep and very still, just here, overhung 
hj ash and alder and willow, whose slender, curving 
branches formed a leafy bower wherein she half knelt, 
half sat, bending over to regard herself in the placid water. 
For a long moment she remained thus, studying her re- 
flection intently in this crystal mirror, and little by little 
her song died away. Then she put up her hands and 
began to rearrange her hair with swift, dexterous fingers, 
apostrophizing her watery image the while, in this wise: 

"My dear, you are growing positively apple-cheeked 
— I vow you are ! your enemies might almost call you — 
strapping — alack ! And then your complexion, my dear, 
your adorable complexion ! " she went on, with a rueful 



The Omen 325 

shake of her head, " you are as brown as a gipsy — not 
that you need go breaking your heart over it — for, be- 
tween you and me, my dear, I think it rather improves 
you; the pity of it is that you have no one to appreciate 
you properly — to render to your charms the homage 
they deserve, no one — not a soul, my dear ; your hermit, 
bless you ! can see, or think, of nothing that exists out of 
a book — which, between you and me and the bucket yon- 
der, is perhaps just as well — and yet — heigho ! To be 
so lovely and so forlorn! indeed, I could shed tears for 
you if it would not make your eyelids swell and your classic 
nose turn red." 

Here she sighed again, and, taking a tendril of hair 
between her fingers, transformed it, very cleverly, into a 
small curl. 

" Yes, your tan certainly becomes you, my dear," she 
went on, nodding to her reflection ; " not that he will ever 
notice — dear heart, no ! were you suddenly to turn as 
black as a Hottentot — before his very eyes — he would 
go on serenely smoking his pipe, and talk to you of 
Epictetus — heigho ! " Sighing thus, she broke off a 
spray of leaves and proceeded to twine them in among the 
lustrous coils of her hair, bending over her reflection 
meanwhile, and turning her head this way and that, to 
note the effect. 

" Yes," said she at last, nodding at her image with a 
satisfied air, " that touch of green sets off your gipsy 
complexion admirably, my dear — I could positively kiss 
you — I vow I could, and I am hard to please. St. An- 
thony himself, meeting you alone in the desert, would, at 
least, have run away from you, and that would have been 
some tribute to your charms, but our philosopher will 
just glance at you with his slow, grave smile, and tell you, 
in his solemn, affable way — that it is a very fine morning 
— heigho ! " 

Here (somewhat late in the day, perhaps) perceiving 
that I was playing eavesdropper, I moved cautiously away, 
and taking up the pail, returned to the cottage. I no^r 



326 The Broad Highway 

filled the kettle and set it upon the fire, and proceeded to 
spread the cloth (a luxurious institution of Chairman's, 
on which she insisted) and to lay out the breakfast things. 
In the midst of which, however, chancing to fall into a 
reverie, I became oblivious of all things till roused by a 
step behind me, and, turning, beheld Charmian standing 
with the glory of the sun about her — like the Spirit of 
Summer herself, broad of hip and shoulder, yet slender, 
and long of limb, all warmth and life, and long, soft curves 
from throat to ankle — perfect with vigorous youth from 
the leaves that crowned her beauty to the foot that showed 
beneath her gown. 

And, as I gazed upon her, silent and wondering, lo! 
though her mouth was solemn yet there was laughter in 
her eyes as she spoke. 

" Well, sir — have you no greeting for me ? " 

u It ■ — is a — very fine morning ! " said I. And now 
the merriment overflowed her eyes, and she laughed, yet 
blushed a little, too, and lowered her eyes from mine, and 
said, still laughing: 

" Oh, Peter — the teapot — do mind the teapot ! " 

" Teapot ? " I repeated, and then I saw that I still held 
it in my hand. 

" Pray, sir — what might you be going to do with the 
teapot in one hand, and that fork in the other? " 

" I was going to make the tea, I remember," said I. 

" Is that why you were standing there staring at the 
kettle while it boiled over? " 

"I — forgot all about the kettle," said I. So Charmian 
took the teapot from me, and set about brewing the tea, 
singing merrily the while. Anon she began to fry the 
bacon, giving each individual slice its due amount of care 
and attention; but, her eyes chancing to meet mine, the 
song died upon her lip, her lashes flickered and fell, while 
up from throat to brow there crept a slow, hot wave of 
crimson. And in that moment I turned away and strode 
down to the brook. 

Now it happened that I came to that same spot where 



The Omen 327 

she had leaned and, flinging myself down, I fell to study- 
ing my reflection in the water, even as she had done* 

Heretofore, though I had paid scant heed to my appear- 
ance, I had been content (in a certain impersonal sort of 
way), had dressed in the fashion, and taken advantage 
of such adornments as were in favor, as much from habit 
as from any set design; but now, lying beside the brook 
with my chin propped in my hands, I began to study mysel* 
critically, feature by feature, as I had never dreamed of 
doing before. 

Mirrored in the clear waters I beheld a face lean and 
brown, and with lank, black hair; eyes, dark and of a 
strange brilliance, looked at me from beneath a steep 
prominence of brow; I saw a somewhat high-bridged nose 
with thin, nervous nostrils, a long, cleft chin, and a dis- 
dainful mouth. 

Truly, a saturnine face, cold and dark and unlovely, 
and thus — even as I gazed — the mouth grew still more 
disdainful, and the heavy brow lowered blacker and more 
forbidding. And yet, in that same moment, I found myself 
sighing, while I strove to lend some order to the wildness 
of my hair. 

" Fool ! " said I, and plunged my head beneath the 
water, and held it there so long that I came up puffing and 
blowing ; whereupon I caught up the towel and fell to rub- 
bing myself vigorously, so that presently, looking down 
into the water again, I saw that my hair was wilder than 
ever — all rubbed into long elf-locks. Straightway I lifted 
my hands, and would have smoothed it somewhat, but 
checked the impulse. 

" Let be," said I to myself, turning away, u let be. I 
am as I am, and shall be henceforth in very truth a village 
blacksmith — and content so to be — absolutely content." 

At sight of me Charmian burst out laughing, the which, 
though I had expected it, angered me nevertheless. 

" Why, Peter ! " she exclaimed, " you look like — " 

" A very low fellow ! " said I, " say a village blacksmith 
who has been at his ablutions." 



328 The Broad Highway 

" If you only had rings in your ears, and a scarf round 
your head, you would be the image of a Spanish brigand 
— or like the man Mina whose exploits The Gazette is full 
of — a Spanish general, I think." 

" A guerrilla leader," said I, taking my place at the 
table, " and a singularly cold-blooded villain — indeed I 
think it probable that we much resemble one another; is 
it any wonder that I am shunned by my kind — avoided by 
the ignorant and regarded askance by the rest? " 

" Why, Peter ! " said Charmian, regarding me with 
grave eyes, " what do you mean ? " 

" I mean that the country folk hereabout go out of their 
way to avoid crossing my path — not that, I suppose, they 
ever heard of Mina, but because of my looks." 

"Your looks?" 

" They think me possessed of the * Evil Eye ' or some 
such folly — may I cut you a piece of bread? " 

"Oh, Peter!" 

" Already, by divers honest-hearted rustics, I am 
credited with having cast a deadly spell upon certain un- 
fortunate pigs, with having fought hand to hand with 
the hosts of the nethermost pit, and with having sold 
my soul to the devil — may I trouble you to pass the 
butter?" 

" Oh, Peter, how foolish of them ! " 

" And how excusable ! considering their ignorance and 
superstition," said I. " Mine, I am well aware, is not a 
face to win me the heart of man, woman, or child; they 
(especially women and children) share, in common with 
dogs and horses, that divine attribute which, for want of 
a better name, we call ' instinct,' whereby they love or hate 
for the mere tone of a voice, the glance of an eye, the 
motion of a hand, and, the love or hate once given, the 
prejudice for, or against, is seldom wholly overcome." 

" Indeed," said Charmian, " I believe in first impres- 
sions." 

" Being a woman," said I. 

" Being a woman ! " she nodded ; " and the instinct of 



The Omen 329 

dog and child and woman has often proved true in the 
end/' 

'" Surely instinct is always true? " said I — " I 'd thank 
you for another cup of tea — yet, strangely enough, dogs 
generally make friends with me very readily, and the few 
children to whom I 've spoken have neither screamed nor 
run away from me. Still, as I said before, I am aware 
that my looks are scarcely calculated to gain the love 
of man, woman, or child; not that it matters greatly, 
seeing that I am likely to hold very little converse with 
either." 

"There is one woman, Peter, to whom you have talked 
by the hour together — " 

" And who is doubtless weary enough of it all — more 
especially of Epictetus and Tro j an Helen." 

" Two lumps of sugar, Peter ? " 

" Thank you ! Women are very like flowers — " I 
began. 

" That is a very profound remark, sir ! — more espe- 
cially coming from one who has studied and knows woman- 
kind so deeply." 

" — and it is a pity that they should be allowed to 
* waste their sweetness on the desert air.' " 

"And philosophical blacksmiths, Peter?" 

" More so if they be poor blacksmiths." 

" I said ' philosophical,' Peter." 

" You probably find your situation horribly lonely 
here? " I went on after a pause. 

" Yes ; it 's nice and lonely, Peter." 

" And, undoubtedly, this cottage is very poor and mean, 
and — er — humble ? " Charmian smiled and shook her 
head. 

" But then, Charmian Brown is a very humble person, 
sir." 

" And you have n't even the luxury of a mirror to dress 
your hair by ! " 

" Is it so very clumsily dressed, sir ? " 

" No, no," said I hastily, " indeed I was thinking — " 



330 The Broad Highway 

"Well, Peter? " 

" That it was very — beautiful ! " 

" Why, you told me that last night — come, what do 
you think of it this morning? " 

"With those leaves in it — it is — even more so J" 

Charmian laughed, and, rising, swept me a stately 
curtesy. 

" After all, sir, we find there be exceptions to every 
rule!" 

"You mean?" 

" Even blacksmiths ! " 

And in a while, having finished my breakfast, I rose, 
and, taking my hat, bade Charmian " Good morning," and 
so came to the door. But on the threshold I turned and 
looked back at her. She had risen, and stood leaning with 
one hand on the table ; now in the other she held the bread- 
knife, and her eyes were upon mine. 

And lo! wonder of wonders! once again, but this time 
sudden and swift — up from the round, full column of 
her throat, up over cheek and brow there rushed that vivid 
tide of color; her eyes grew suddenly deep and soft, and 
then were hidden 'neath her lashes — and, in that same 
moment, the knife slipped from her grasp, and falling, 
point downwards, stood quivering in the floor between us 

— an ugly thing that gleamed evilly. 

Was this an omen — a sign vouchsafed of that which, 
dark and terrible, was, even then, marching to meet us 
upon this Broad Highway? O Blind, and more than 
blind! 

Almost before it had ceased to quiver I stooped, and, 
plucking it from the floor, gave it into her hand. Now, 
as I did so, her fingers touched mine, and, moved by a sud- 
den mad impulse, I stooped and pressed my lips upon them 

— kissed them quick and fierce, and so turned, and hurried 
upon my way. 

Yet, as I went, I found that the knife had cut my chin, 
and that I was bleeding. 

O Blind, and more than blind! Surely this was a warn- 



The Omen 331 

ing, an omen to heed — to shiver over, despite the warm 
sun! 

But, seeing the blood, I laughed, and strode village- 
wards, blithe of heart and light of foot. 

O Blind, and more than blind ! 



CHAPTER XVni 

IN WHICH I HEAR NEWS OF SIR MAURICE VIBART 

" Which I says — Lord love me ! " 

I plunged the iron back into the fire, and, turning my 
head, espied a figure standing in the doorway ; and, though 
the leather hat and short, round jacket had been super- 
seded by a smart groom's livery, I recognized the Postilion. 

" So 'elp me, Bob, if this ain't a piece o' luck ! " he ex- 
claimed, and, with the words, he removed his hat and fell 
to combing his short, thick hair with the handle of his 
whip. 

" I 'm glad you think so," said I. 

" You can drownd me if it ain't ! " said he. 

" And, pray, how is the gentleman who — happened to 
fall and hurt himself, if you remember — in the storm ? " 

" 'Appened to fall an' 'urt 'isself ? " repeated the Pos- 
tilion, winking knowingly, " ' 'urt 'isself,' says you — 
* Walker ! ' says I, * Walker ! ' " with which he laid his fore- 
finger against the side of his nose and winked again. 

" What might you be pleased to mean? " 

" I means as a gent 'appenin' to fall in the dark may 
p'r'aps cut 'is 'ead open — but 'e don't give 'isself two 
black eyes, a bloody nose, a split lip, an' three broken 
ribs, all at once — it ain't nat'ral, w'ich if you says con- 
trairy, I remarks — ' Walker ! ' Lord ! " continued the 
Postilion, seeing I did not speak, " Lord ! it must 'a' been 
a pretty warm go while it lasted — you put 'im to sleep 
sound enough; it took me over a hour to Tonbridge, an' 
'e never moved till 'e 'd been put to bed at ' The Chequers ' 
Ah ! an' a nice time I 'ad of it. what 



I Hear News of Sir Maurice Vibart 333 

wi' chamber-maids a-runnin' up an' down stairs to see the 
8 poor gentleman,' an' everybody a-starin' at me, an' 
a-shakin' their 'eads, an' all a-axin' questions, one atop o' 
the other, till the doctor come. ' 'Ow did this 'appen, me 
man? ' says 'e. ' A haccident ! ' says I. ' A haccident? ' 
says the doctor, wi' a look in 'is eye as I didn't just like. 

* Ah ! ' says I, * fell on 'is 'ead — out o' the chaise,' says I, 
4 struck a stone, or summ'at,' says I. ' Did 'e fall of 'is 
own accord?' says the doctor. 'Ah, for sure!' says I. 

* Humph ! ' says the doctor, 4 what wi' 'is eyes, an' 'is nose, 
an' 'is lip, looks to me as if some one 'ad 'elped 'im.' 6 Then 
you must be a dam' fool ! ' says a voice, an' there 's my 
gentleman — Number One, you know, a-sittin' up in bed 
an' doin' 'is 'ardest to frown. ' Sir? ' says the doctor. 

* Sir ! to you,' says my gentleman, ' this honest fellow tells 
the truth. I did fall out o' the accursed chaise — an' be 
damned to you ! ' says 'e. ' Don't excite yourself,' says the 
doctor ; ' in your present condition it would be danger- 
ous.' ' Then be so good as to go to the devil ! ' says my 
gentleman. * I will ! ' says the doctor, an' off 'e goes. * Hi, 
there, you,' says my gentleman, callin' to me as soon as 
we were alone, ' this accursed business 'as played the devil 
with me, an' I need a servant. 'Ow much do you want to 
stay wi' me? ' ' Twenty-five shillin' a week,' says I, doin' 
myself proud while I 'ad the chance. 6 I '11 give ye thirty,' 
says 'e; 'wot's ye name?' 'Jacob Trimble, sir,' says I. 
6 An' a most accursed name it is ! — I '11 call you Parks,' 
says 'e, s an' when I ring let no one answer but yourself. 
You can go, Parks — an', Parks — get me another doc- 
tor.' Well," pursued the Postilion, seating himself near 
by, " we 'd been there a couple o' weeks, an' though 'e was 
better, an' 'is face near well again, 'e still kept to 'is room, 
when, one day, a smart phaeton an' blood 'osses drives up, 
an' out steps a fine gentleman — one o' them pale, sleepy 
sort. I was a-standin' in the yard, brushin' my master's 
coat — a bottle-green wi' silver buttons, each button 'avin' 
what they calls a monneygram stamped onto it. ' Ha, me 
man ! ' says the sleepy gent, steppin' up to me, s a fine 



334 The Broad Highway 

coat — doocid fashionable cut, curse me! — your mas- 
ter's?' * Yes, sir,' says I, brushin' away. 'Silver but- 
tons too ! ' says the gent, ' let me see — ah yes ! — a V, 
yes, to be sure — 'ave the goodness to step to your master 
an' say as a gentleman begs to see 'im.' i Can't be done, 
sir,' says I ; ' me master ain't seein' nobody, bein' in in- 
different 'ealth.' ' Nonsense ! ' says the gentleman, yawnin' 
an' slippin' a guinea into me 'and. ' Just run, like a good 
feller, an' tell 'im as I bear a message from George ! ' 
' From 'oo? ' says I. ' From George,' says the gent, smilin' 
an' yawnin' — ' just say from George.' So, to come to 
the end of it, up I goes, an' finds me master walkin' up an' 
down an' a-swearin' to 'isself as usual. ' A gentleman to 
see you, sir,' says I. ' Why, devil burn your miserable 
carcass ! ' say 'e, s did n't I tell you as I 'd see nobody ? ' 
* Ay, but this 'ere gent 's a-sayin' 'e 'as a message from 
George, sir.' My master raised both clenched fists above 
'is 'ead an' swore — ah ! better than I 'd heard for many 
a long day. 'Ows'ever, downstairs 'e goes, cursin' on every 
stair. In a time 'e comes back. ' Parks,' says 'e, ' do you 
remember that — that place where we got lost — in the 
storm, Parks ? ' ' Ah, sir,' says I. 4 Well, go there at once,' 
says 'e, * an',' — well — 'e give me certain orders — jumps 
into the phaeton wi' the sleepy gentleman, an' they drive 
off together — an' accordin' to orders — 'ere I am." 

" A very interesting story ! " said I. " And so you are 
a groom now? " 

"Ah! — an' you are a blacksmith, eh?" 

" Yes." 

" Well, if it don't beat everything as ever I heard — 
I 'm a stiff 'un, that 's all ! " 

" What do you mean ? " 

" I means my droppin' in on you, like this 'ere, just as 
if you was n't the one man in all England as I was 'opeful 
to drop in on." 

" And you find me very busy ! " said I. 

" Lord love me ! " said the Postilion, combing his hair 
so very hard that it wrinkled his brow. " I comes up from 



I Hear News of Sir Maurice Vibart 335 

Tonbridge this 'ere very afternoon, an', 'avin* drunk a pint 
over at * The Bull ' yonder, an' axed questions as none o' 
they chawbacons could give a answer to, I 'ears the chink 
o' your 'ammer, an' comin' over 'ere, chance like, I finds 

— you ; I '11 be gormed if it ain't a'most onnat'ral ! " 
"And why?" 

" 'Cos you was the very i-dentical chap as I come up 
from Tonbridge to find." 

" Were you sent to find me ? " 

"Easy a bit — you 're a blacksmith, a'n't you?" 

" I told you so before." 

" Wot 's more, you looks a blacksmith in that there 
leather apron, an' wi' your face all smutty. To be sure, 
you 're powerful like 'im — Number One as was — my 
master as now is — " 

" Did he send you to find me ? " 

" Some folks might take you for a gentleman, meetm* 
you ofFand like, but I knows different." 

"As how?" 

" Well, I never 'eard of a gentleman turnin' 'isself into 
a blacksmith, afore, for one thing — " 

" Still, one might," I ventured. 

" No," answered the Postilion, with a decisive shake of 
the head, " it 's ag'in' natur' ; when a gentleman gets 
down in the world, an' 'as to do summ'at for a livin', *e 
generally shoots 'isself — ah! an' I've knowed 'em do 
it too ! An' then I 've noticed as you don't swear, nor yet 
curse — not even a damn." 

" Seldom," said I; " but what of that? " 

" I 've seed a deal o' the quality in my time, one way or 
another — many 's the fine gentleman as I 've druv, or 
groomed for, an' never a one on 'em as did n't curse me — 
ah ! " said the Postilion, sighing and shaking his head, 
" 9 ow they did curse me! — 'specially one — a young lord 

— oncommon fond o' me 'e were too, in 'is way, to the day 
'is 'oss fell an' rolled on 'im. ' Jacob,' says 'e, short like, 
for 'e were a-goin' fast. ' Jacob ! ' says 'e, ' damn your 
infernally ugly mug ! ' says 'e ; J you bet me as that cursed 



336 The Broad Highway 

brute would do for me.' ' I did, my lord,' says I, an' I 
remember as the tears was a-runnin' down all our faces as 
we carried 'im along on the five-barred gate, that bein' 
'andiest. ' Well, devil take your soul, you was right, Jacob, 
an' be damned to you ! ' says 'e ; ' you '11 find a tenner in 
my coat pocket 'ere, you 've won it, for I sha'n't last the 
day out, Jacob.' An' 'e did n't either, for 'e died afore 
we got 'im 'ome, an' left me a 'undred pound in 'is will. 
Ah ! gentlemen as is gents is all the same. Lord love you ! 
there never was one on 'em but damned my legs, or my 
liver, or the chaise, or the 'osses, or the road, or the inns, 
or all on 'em together. If you was to strip me as naked 
as the palm o' your 'and, an' to strip a lord, or a earl, or 
a gentleman as naked as the palm o' your 'and, an' was 
to place us side by side — where 'd be the difference? 
We're both men, both flesh and blood, a'n't we? — then 
where 'd be the difference ? 'Oo 's to tell which is the lord 
an' which is the postilion? " 

"Who indeed?" said I, setting down my hammer. 
" Jack is often as good as his master — and a great deal 
better." 

" Why, nobody ! " nodded the Postilion, " not a soul — 
till we opened our mouths ; an' then 't would be easy 
enough, for my lord, or earl, or gentleman, bein' naked, 
an' not likin' it (which would only be nat'ral), would fall 
a-swearin' 'eavens 'ard, damning everybody an' cursin' 
everything, an' never stop to think, while I — not bein' 
born to it — should stand there a-shiverin' an' tryin' a 
curse or two myself, maybe — but Lord ! mine would n't 
amount to nothin' at all, me not bein' nat'rally gifted, nor 
yet born to it — an' this brings me round to 'er ! " 

"Her?" 

" Ah — 'er ! Number Two — 'er as quarrelled wi' Num- 
ber One all the way from London — 'er as run away from 
Number One — wot about — 'er? " Here he fell to comb- 
ing his hair again with his whip-handle, while his quick, 
bright eyes dodged from my face to the glowing forge and 
back again, and his clean-shaven lips pursed themselves 



I Hear News of Sir Maurice Vibart 337 

in a soundless whistle. And, as I watched him, it seemed 
to me that this was the question that had been in his mind 
all along. 

44 Seeing she did manage to run away from him — Num- 
ber One — she is probably very well," I answered. 

44 Ah — to be sure! very well, you say? — ah, to be 
sure ! " said the Postilion, apparently lost in contempla- 
tion of the bellows ; " an' — where might she be, now ? " 

44 That I am unable to tell you," said I, and began to 
blow up the fire while the Postilion watched me, sucking 
tiie handle of his whip reflectively. 

%4 You work oncommon 'ard - — drownd me if you don't ! " 

4 * Pretty hard ! " I nodded. 

" An' gets well paid for it, p'r'aps ? " 

44 Not so well as I could wish," said I. 

44 Not so well as 'e could wish," nodded the Postilion, 
apparently addressing the sledge-hammer, for his gaze was 
fixed upon it. " Of course not — the 'arder a man works 
the wuss 'e gets paid — 'ow much did you say you got a 
week?" 

44 1 named no sum," I replied. 

" Well — 'ow much might you be gettin' a week? " 
- " Ten shillings." 

44 Gets ten shillin' a week ! " he nodded to the sledge- 
hammer, " that ain't much for a chap like 'im — kick me 
if it is!" 

44 Yet I make it do very well ! " 

The Postilion became again absorbed in contemplation 
of the bellows ; indeed he studied them so intently, viewing 
them with his head now on one side, now on the other, that 
I fell to watching him, under my brows, and so, presently, 
caught him furtively watching me. Hereupon he drew his 
whip from his mouth and spoke. 

44 Supposing — " said he, and stopped. 

"Well?" I inquired, and, leaning upon my hammer, I 
looked him square in the eye. 

44 Supposing — wot are you a-staring at, my feller? " 

44 You have said 4 supposing ' twice — well? " 



338 The Broad Highway 

" Well," said he, fixing his eye upon the bellows again, 
" supposing you was to make a guinea over an' above your 
wages this week? " 

" I should be very much surprised," said I. 

"You would?" 

" I certainly should." 

" Then — why not surprise yourself ? " 

" You must speak more plainly," said I. 

" Well then," said the Postilion, still with his gaze ab- 
stracted, " supposin' I was to place a guinea down on that 
there anvil o' yours — would that 'elp you to remember 
where Number Two — 'er — might be? " 

"No!" 

" It would n't? " 

"No!" 

" A guinea 's a lot o' money ! " 

" It is," I nodded. 

" An' you say it would n't ? " 

"It would not!" said I. 

" Then say — oh ! say two pun' ten an* 'ave done 
with it." 

" No ! " said I, shaking my head. 

"What — not — d'ye say 'no' to two pun' ten?" 

" I do." 

" Well, let 's say three pound." 

I shook my head and, drawing the iron from the fire, 
began to hammer at it. 

" Well then," shouted the Postilion, for I was making 
as much din as possible, " say four — five — ten — fifteen 
- — twenty-five — fifty ! " Here I ceased hammering. 

" Tell me when you 've done ! " said I. 

" You 're a cool customer, you are — ah ! an' a rum 
un' at that — I never see a rummer." 

" Other people have thought the same," said I, exam- 
ining the half-finished horseshoe ere I set it back in the 
fire. 

" Sixty guineas ! " said the Postilion gloomily. 

" Come again ! " said I. 



I Hear News of Sir Maurice Vibart 339 

" Seventy then ! " said he, his gloom deepening. 

" Once more ! " said I. 

" A 'undred — one 'undred guineas ! " said he, remov- 
ing his hat to mop at his brow. 

" Any more? " I inquired. 

" No ! " returned the Postilion sulkily, putting on his 
hat, "I'm done!" 

" Did he set the figure at a hundred guineas? *' said I. 

" 'Im — oh ! 'e 's mad for 'er, 'e is — 'e 'd ruin 'isself , 
body and soul, for 'er, 'e would, but I ain't goin' to offer 
no more ; no woman as ever breathed — no matter 'ow 
'andsome an' up-standin' — is worth more 'n a 'undred 
guineas — it ain't as if she was a blocd-mare — an' I 'ra 
done!" 

" Then I wish you good-day ! " 

" But — just think — a 'undred guineas is a fortun' ! " 

"It is!" said I. 

" Come, think it over," said the Postilion persuasively, 
" think it over, now ! " 

" Let me fully understand you then," said I ; tt you pro- 
pose to pay me one hundred guineas on behalf of your 
master, known heretofore as Number One, for such infor- 
mation as shall enable him to discover the whereabouts of 
a certain person known as Her, Number Two — is that 
how the matter stands ? " 

" Ah ! that 's 'ow it stands," nodded the Postilion, " the 
money to be yours as soon as ever 'e lays 'ands on 'er — 
is it a go? * 

"No!" 

"No?" 

"No!* 

« Wy, you must be stark, starin' mad — that you must 
— unless you 're sweet on 'er yourself — " 

" You talk Eke a fool ! " said I angrily. 

" So you are sweet on 'er then ? " 

" Ass ! " said L " Fool ! " And, dropping my hammer, 
I made towards him, but he darted nimbly to the door, 
where, seeing I did not pursue, he paused. 



340 The Broad Highway 

" I may be a hass," he nodded, "an' I may be a fool — 
but I don't go a-fallin' in love wi' ladies as is above me, 
an' out o' my reach, and don't chuck away a 'undred 
guineas for one as ain't likely to look my way — not me ! 
Which I begs leave to say — hass yourself, an' likewise 
fool — bah ! " With which expletive he set his thumb to 
his nose, spread out his fingers, wagged them and swag- 
gered off. 

Above me, and out of my reach ! One not likely to look 
my way! 

And, in due season, having finished the horseshoe, hav- 
ing set each tool in its appointed place in the racks, and 
raked out the clinkers from the fire, I took my hat and 
coat, and, closing the door behind me, set out for the 
Hollow. 



CHAPTER XIX 

HOW I MET BLACK GEORGE AGAIN, AND WHEREIN THE 



It was evening — that time before the moon is up and 
when the earth is dark, as yet, and full of shadows. Now 
as I went, by some chance there recurred to me the words 
of an old song I had read somewhere, years ago, words 
written in the glorious, brutal, knightly days of Edward 
the First, of warlike memory ; and the words ran thus : 

" For her love I carke, and care, 
For her love I droop, and dare, 
For her love my bliss is bare, 
And I wax wan!" 

" I wonder what poor, love-sick, long-dead-and-forgot- 
ten fool wrote that? " said I aloud. 

" For her love, in sleep I slake, 
For her love, all night I wake, 
For her love, I mourning make 
More than any man! " 

Some doughty squire-at-arms, or perhaps some wan- 
dering knight (probably of a dark, unlovely look), who 
rode the forest ways with his thoughts full of Her, and 
dreaming of Her loveliness. " Howbeit, he was, beyond 
all doubt, a fool and a great one ! " said I, " for it is to 
be inferred, from these few words he has left us, that his 
love was hopeless. She was, perhaps, proud and of a 
high estate, one who was above him, and far beyond his 
reach — who was not likely even to look his way. Doubt- 
less she was beautiful, and therefore haughty and dis- 
dainful, for disdainful pride is an attribute of beauty, and 



342 The Broad Highway 

ever was and ever will be — and hence it came that our 
misfortunate squire, or knight-errant, was scorned for his 
pains, poor fool ! Which yet was his own fault, after all, 
and, indeed, his just reward, for what has any squire-at- 
arms or lusty knight, with the world before him, and glory 
yet unachieved — to do with love ? Love is a bauble — a 
toy, a pretty pastime for idle folk who have no thought 
above such — away with it ! — Bah ! " And, in my mind 

— that is to say, mentally — I set my thumb to my nose, 
and spread my fingers, and wagged them — even as the 
Postilion had done. And yet, despite this, the words of 
the old song recurred again and again, pathetically in- 
sistent, voicing themselves in my footsteps so that, to 
banish them, I presently stood still. 

And in that very moment a gigantic figure came burst- 
ing through the hedge, clearing the ditch in a single bound 

— and Black George confronted me. 

Haggard of face, with hair and beard matted and un- 
kempt, his clothes all dusty and torn, he presented a very 
wild and terrible appearance; and beneath one arm he 
carried two bludgeons. The Pedler had spoken truly, then, 
and, as I met the giant's smouldering eye, I felt my mouth 
become suddenly parched and dry, and the palms of my 
hands grew moist and clammy. 

For a moment neither of us spoke, only we looked at 
each other steadily in the eye ; and I saw the hair of his 
beard bristle, and he raised one great hand to the collar 
of his shirt, and tore it open as if it were strangling him. 

" George ! " said I at last, and held out my hand. 

George never stirred. 

"Won't you shake hands, George?" 

His lips opened, but no words came. 

" Had I known where to look for you, I should have 
sought you out days ago," I went on ; " as it is I have 
been wishing to meet you, hoping to set matters right." 

Once again his lips opened, but still no word came. 

" You see, Prudence is breaking her heart over you." 

A laugh burst from him, sudden, and harsh. 



How I Met Black George Again 343 

" You 'm a liar ! " said he, and his voice quavered 
strangely. 

" I speak gospel truth ! " said I. 

" I be nowt to Prue since the day you beat me at th* 
'ammer-throwin' — an' ye know it." 

" Prudence loves you, and always has," said I. " Go 
back to her, George, go back to her, and to your work — 
be the man I know you are ; go back to her — she loves 
you. If you still doubt my word — here, read that ! " and 
I held out his own letter, the letter on which Prudence had 
written those four words : " George, I love you." 

He took it from me — crumpled it slowly in his hand 
and tossed it into the ditch. 

" You 'm a liar ! " said he again, " an' a — coward ! " 

" And you," said I, " you are a fool, a blind, gross, self- 
ish fool, who, in degrading yourself — in skulking about 
the woods and lanes — is bringing black shame and sorrow 
to as sweet a maid as ever — " 

" It don't need you to tell me what she be an' what she 
bean't," said Black George, in a low, repressed voice. " I 
knowed 'er long afore you ever set eyes on 'er — grew up 
wi' 'er, I did, an' I bean't deaf nor blind. Ye see, I loved 
'er — all my life — that 's why one o' us two 's a-goin' to 
lie out 'ere all night — ah ! an' all to-morrow, likewise, if 
summun don't chance to find us," saying which, he forced 
a cudgel into my hand. 

" What do you mean, George? " 

" I means as if you don't do for me, then I be a-goin' to 
do for 'ee." 

" But why ? " I cried ; " in God's name — why ? " 

" I be slow, p'r'aps, an' thick p'r'aps, but I bean't a fule 
— come, man — if she be worth winnin' she be worth 
fightin' for." 

" But I tell you she loves Black George, and no other — 
she never had any thought of me, or I of her — this i& 
madness — and worse ! " and I tossed the cudgel aside. 

" An' I tell 'ee," broke in the smith, his repression giv- 
ing way before a fury as fierce as it was sudden, " I tell 



344 The Broad Highway 

'ee — you be a liar, an' a coward — I know, I know — 
I 've heerd an' I 've seen — your lyin', coward's tongue 
sha'n't save 'ee — oh, ecod ! wi' your white face an' trem- 
biin' 'ands — you be a shame to the woman as loves ye, an' 
the woman as bore ye ! — stand up, I say, or by God ! I '11 
do for 'ee ! " and he raised his weapon. 

Without another word I picked up the cudgel, and, 
pointing to a gate a little farther along the road, I led the 
way into the meadow beyond. On the other side of this 
meadow ran the lane I have mentioned before, and beyond 
the lane was the Hollow, and glancing thitherward, I be- 
thought me that supper would be ready, and Charmian 
waiting for me, just about now, and I sighed, I remember, 
as I drew off my coat, and laid it, together with my hat, 
under the hedge. 

The moon was beginning to rise, casting the magic of 
her pale loveliness upon the world, and, as I rolled up my 
sleeves, I glanced round about me with an eye that strove 
to take in the beauty of all things — of hedge and tree and 
winding road, the gloom of wood, the sheen of water, and 
the far, soft sweep of hill and dale. Over all these my 
glance lingered yearningly, for it seemed to me that this 
look might be my last. And now, as I stooped and gripped 
my weapon, I remembered how I had, that morning, kissed 
her fingers, and I was strangely comforted and glad. 

The night air, which had been warm heretofore, struck 
chilly now, and, as I stood up fronting Black George, I 
shivered, seeing which he laughed, short and fierce, and, 
with the laugh, came at me, striking downwards at my 
head as he came, and tough wood met tough wood with a 
shock that jarred me from wrist to shoulder. 

To hit him upon the arm, and disable him, was my one 
thought and object. I therefore watched for an opening, 
parrying his swift strokes and avoiding his rushes as well 
as I might. Time and again our weapons crashed to- 
gether, now above my head, now to right, or left, some- 
times rattling in quick succession, sometimes with pauses 
between strokes, pauses filled in with the sound of heavy 



How I Met Black George Again 345 

breathing and the ceaseless thud of feet upon the sward. 
I was already bruised in half-a-dozen places, my right 
hand and arm felt numb, and with a shooting pain in the 
shoulder, that grew more acute with every movement; my 
breath also was beginning to labor. Yet still Black George 
pressed on, untiring, relentless, showering blow on blow, 
while my arm grew ever weaker and weaker, and the pain 
in my shoulder throbbed more intensely. 

How long had we fought ? five minutes — ten — half- 
an-hour — an hour? I could see the sweat gleaming upon 
his cheek, his eyes were wild, his mouth gaped open, and 
he drew his breath in great sobbing pants. But, as I 
looked, his cudgel broke through my tired guard, and, tak- 
ing me full upon the brow, drove me reeling back; my 
weapon slipped from my grasp, and, blinded with blood, 
I staggered to and fro, like a drunken man, and presently 
slipped to the grass. And how sweet it was to lie thus, 
with my cheek upon kind mother earth, to stretch my 
aching body, and with my weary limbs at rest. But Black 
George stood above me, panting, and, as his eyes met mine, 
he laughed — a strange-sounding, broken laugh, and 
whirled up his cudgel — to beat out my brains — even as 
the Pedler had foretold — to-morrow the blackbird would 
sing upon my motionless breast, and, looking into Black 
George's eyes — I smiled. 

" Get up ! " he panted, and lowered the cudgel. " Get 
up — or, by God — I '11 do — for 'ee ! " 

Sighing, I rose, and took the cudgel he held out to me, 
wiping the blood from my eyes as I did so. 

And now, as I faced him once more, all things vanished 
from my ken save the man before me — he filled the uni- 
verse, and, even as he leaped upon me, I leaped upon him, 
and struck with all my strength; there was a jarring, 
splintering shock, and Black George was beaten down upon 
his knees, but as, dropping my weapon, I stepped forward, 
he rose, and stood panting, and staring at the broken 
cudgel in his hand. 

" George ! " said I. 



346 The Broad Highway 

" You 'm a-bleedin', Peter ! " 

" For that matter, so are you." 

" Blood-lettin' be — good for a man — sometimes — it 
eases un." 

" It does," I panted ; " perhaps you are — willing to — 
hear reason — now? " 

" We be — even so fur — but fists be better nor — 
sticks any day — an' I — be goin' — to try ye — wi' 
fists!" 

" Have we not bled each other sufficiently? " 

" No," cried George, between set teeth, " theer be more 
nor blood-lettin' 'twixt you an' me — I said as 'ow one on 
us would lie out 'ere all night — an' so 'e shall — by God! 
— come on — fists be best arter all ! " 

This was the heyday of boxing, and, while at Oxford, 
I had earned some small fame at the sport. But it was 
one thing to spar with a man my own weight in a padded 
ring, with limited rounds governed by a code of rules, and 
quite another to fight a man like Black George, in a lonely 
meadow, by light of moon. Moreover, he was well ac- 
quainted with the science, as I could see from the way he 
" shaped," the only difference between us being that 
whereas he fought with feet planted square and wide apart, 
I balanced myself upon my toes, which is (I think) to be 
commended as being quicker, and more calculated to lessen 
the impact of a blow. 

Brief though the respite had been, it had served me to 
recover my breath, and, though my head yet rung from 
the cudgel-stroke, and the blood still flowed freely, getting, 
every now and then, into my eyes, my brain was clear as 
we fronted each other for what we both knew must be the 
decisive bout. 

The smith stood with his mighty shoulders stooped 
something forward, his left arm drawn back, his right 
flung across his chest, and, so long as we fought, I watched 
that great fist and knotted forearm, for, though he struck 
oftener with his left, it was in that passive right that I 
thought my danger really lay. 



How I Met Black George Again 347 

It is not my intention to chronicle this fight blow by 
blow; enough, and more than enough, has already been 
said in that regard; suffice it then, that as the fight pro- 
gressed I found that I was far the quicker, as I had hoped, 
and that the majority of his blows I either blocked or 
avoided easily enough. 

Time after time his fist shot over my shoulder, or over 
my head, and time after time I countered heavily — now 
on his body, now on his face ; once he staggered, and once 
I caught a momentary glimpse of his features convulsed 
with pain; he was smeared with blood from the waist up, 
but still he came on. 

I fought desperately now, savagely, taking advantage 
of every opening, for though I struck him four times to his 
once, yet his blows had four times the weight of mine; 
my forearms were bruised to either elbow, and my breath 
came in gasps ; and always I watched that deadly " right.'* 
And presently it came, with arm and shoulder and body 
behind it — quick as a flash, and resistless as a cannon- 
ball; but I was ready, and, as I leaped, I struck, and 
struck him clean and true upon the angle of the jaw; and, 
spinning round, Black George fell, and lay with his arms 
wide stretched, and face buried in the grass. 

Slowly, slowly he got upon his knees, and thence to his 
feet, and so stood panting, hideous with blood and sweat, 
bruised and cut and disfigured, staring at me, as one in 
amaze. 

Now, as I looked, my heart went out to him, and I 
reached forth my right hand. 

" George ! " I panted. " Oh, George ! " 

But Black George only looked at me, and shook his 
head, and groaned. 

" Oh, Peter ! " said he, " you be a man, Peter ! I 've 
fou't — ah ! many 's the time, an' no man ever knocked me 
down afore. Oh, Peter ! I — I could love 'ee for it — 
if I did n't hate the very sight of 'ee — come on, an' let 's 
get it over an' done wi\" 

So once again fists were clenched and jaws set — once 



348 The Broad Highway 

again came the trampling of feet, the hiss of breath, and 
the thudding shock of blows given and taken. 

A sudden, jarring impact — the taste of sulphur on my 
tongue — a gathering darkness before my eyes, and, know- 
ing this was the end, I strove desperately to close with him ; 
but I was dazed, blind — my arms fell paralyzed, and, in 
that moment, the Smith's right fist drove forward. A 
jagged flame shot up to heaven — the earth seemed to rush 
up towards me — a roaring blackness engulfed me, and 
then — silence. 



CHAPTER XX 

HOW I CAME UP OUT OF THE DARK 

Some one was calling to me, a long way off. 

Some one was leaning down from a great height to call 
to me in the depths ; and the voice was wonderfully sweet, 
but faint, faint, because the height was so very high, and 
the depths so very great. 

And still the voice called and called, and I felt sorry 
that I could not answer, because, as I say, the voice was 
troubled, and wonderfully sweet. 

And, little by little, it seemed that it grew nearer, this 
voice ; was it descending to me in these depths of blackness, 
or was I being lifted up to the heights where, I knew, black- 
ness could not be? Ay, indeed, I was being lifted, for I 
could feel a hand upon my brow — a smooth, cool hand 
that touched my cheek, and brushed the hair from my fore- 
head; a strong, gentle hand it was, with soft fingers, and 
it was lifting me up and up from the loathly depths which 
seemed more black and more horrible the farther I drew 
from them. 

And so I heard the voice nearer, and ever nearer, until 
I could distinguish words, and the voice had tears in it, 
and the words were very tender. 

" Peter — speak ! — speak to me, Peter ! " 

" Charmian? " said I, within myself; " why, truly, whose 
hand but hers could have lifted me out of that gulf of 
death, back to light and life? " Yet I did not speak aloud % 
for I had no mind to, yet a while. 

" Ah ! speak to me — speak to me, Peter ! How can 
you lie there so still and pale ? * 



350 The Broad Highway 

And now her arms were about me, strong and protect- 
ing, and my head was drawn down upon her bosom. 

" Oh, Peter ! — my Peter ! " 

Nay, but was this Charmian, the cold, proud Charmian? 
Truly I had never heard that thrill in her voice before — 
could this indeed be Charmian? And lying thus, with my 
head on this sweet pillow, I could hear her heart whispering 
to me, and it seemed that it was striving to tell me some- 
thing — striving, striving to tell me something, could I but 
understand — ah ! could I but understand ! 

" I waited for you so long — so long, Peter — and — 
the supper is all spoiled — a rabbit, Peter — you liked 
rabbit, and — and oh, God ! I want you — don't you hear 
me, Peter — I want you — want you ! " and now her cheek 
was pressed to mine, and her lips were upon my hair, and 
upon my brow — her lips ! Was this indeed Charmian, 
and was I Peter Vibart? Ah, if I could but know what 
it was her heart was trying to tell me, so quickly and 
passionately ! 

And while I lay listening, listening, something hot 
splashed down upon my cheek, and then another, and an- 
other; her bosom heaved tumultuously, and instinctively, 
raising my arms, I clasped them about her. 

" Don't ! " I said, and my voice was a whisper ; " don't, 
Charmian ! " 

For a moment her clasp tightened about me, she was all 
tenderness and clinging warmth; then I heard a sudden 
gasp, her arms loosened and fell away, and so I presently 
raised my head, and, supporting myself upon my hand, 
looked at her. And then I saw that her cheeks were 
burning. 

" Peter." 

"Yes, Charmian?" 

" Did you — " She paused, plucking nervously at the 
grass, and looking away from me. 

"Well, Charmian?" 

" Did you — hear — " Again she broke off, and still 
her head was averted. 



How I Came up out of the Dark 351 

" I heard your voice calling to me from a great way off, 
and so — I came, Charmian." 

" Were you conscious when — when I — found you ? " 

" No," I answered ; " I was lying in a very deep, black 
pit." Here she looked at me again. 

"I — I thought you — were — dead, Peter." 

" My soul was out of my body — until you recalled 
it." 

" You were lying upon your back, by the hedge here, and 
— oh, Peter ! your face was white and shining in the moon- 
light — and there was — blood upon it, and you looked 
like one that is — dead ! " and she shivered. 

" And you have brought me back to life," said I, rising ; 
but, being upon my feet, I staggered giddily, to hide which, 
I laughed, and leaned against a tree. " Indeed," said I, 
" I am very much alive still, and monstrously hungry — 
you spoke of a rabbit, I think — " 

" A rabbit ! " said Charmian in a whisper, and as I met 
her eye I would have given much to have recalled that 
thoughtless speech. 

"I — I think you did mention a rabbit," said I, floun- 
dering deeper. 

" So, then — you deceived me, you lay there and de- 
ceived me — with your eyes shut, and your ears open, tak- 
ing advantage of my pity — " 

" No, no — indeed, no — I thought myself still dream- 
ing ; it — it all seemed so unreal, so — so beyond all 
belief and possibility and — " I stopped, aghast at my 
crass folly, for, with a cry, she sprang to her feet, and hid 
her face in her hands, while I stood dumbfounded, like the 
fool I was. When she looked up, her eyes seemed to 
scorch me. 

" And I thought Mr. Vibart a man of honor — like a 
knight of his old-time romances, high and chivalrous — 
oh ! I thought him a ■- — gentleman ! " 

" Instead of which," said I, speaking (as it were), de- 
spite myself, " instead of which, you find me only a black- 
smith — a low, despicable fellow eager to take advantage 



352 The Broad Highway 

of your unprotected womanhood." She did not speak, 
standing tall and straight, her head thrown back ; where- 
fore, reading her scorn of me in her eyes, seeing the proud 
contempt of her mouth, a very demon seemed suddenly to 
possess me, for certainly the laugh that rang from my lips 
proceeded from no volition of mine. 

" And yet, madam," my voice went on, " this despicable 
blacksmith fellow refused one hundred guineas for you 
to-day.' 5 

" Peter ! " she cried, and shrank away from me as if I 
had threatened to strike her. 

" Ah ! — you start at that — your proud lip trembles 
— do not fear, madam — the sum did not tempt him — 
though a large one." 

" Peter ! " she cried again, and now there was a note 
of appeal in her voice. 

" Indeed, madam, even so degraded a fellow as this 
blacksmith could not very well sell that which he does not 
possess — could he ? And so the hundred guineas go 
a-begging, and you are still — unsold ! " Long before 
I had done she had covered her face again, and, coming 
near, I saw the tears running out between her fingers and 
sparkling as they fell. And once again the devil within 
me laughed loud and harsh. But, while it still echoed, I 
had flung myself down at her feet. 

" Charmian," I cried, " forgive me — you will, you 
must ! " and, kneeling before her, I strove to catch her 
gown, and kiss its hem, but she drew it close about her, 
and, turning, fled from me through the shadows. 

Heedless of all else but that she was leaving me, I 
stumbled to my feet and followed. The trees seemed to 
beset me as I ran, and bushes to reach out arms to stay 
me, but I burst from them, running wildly, blunderingly, 
for she was going — Charmian was leaving me. And so, 
spent and panting, I reached the cottage, and met Char- 
mian at the door. She was clad in the long cloak she had 
worn when she came, and the hood was drawn close about 
her face. 



How I Came up out of the Dark 353 

I stood panting in the doorway, barring her exit. 

" Let me pass, Peter." 

" By God — no ! " I cried, and, entering, closed the 
door, and leaned my back against it. 

And, after we had stood thus awhile, each looking upon 
the other, I reached out my hands to her, and my hands 
were torn and bloody. 

" Don't go, Charmian," I mumbled, " don't go ! Oh, 
Charmian — I 'm hurt — I did n't want you to know, but 
you must n't leave me — I am not — well ; it is my head, 
I think. I met Black George, and he was too strong for 
me. I 'm deaf, Charmian, and half blinded — oh, don't 
leave me — I 'm afraid, Charmian ! " Her figure grew 
more blurred and indistinct, and I sank down upon my 
knees ; but in the dimness I reached out and found her 
hands, and clasped them, and bowed my aching head upon 
them, and remained thus a great while, as it seemed 
to me. 

And presently, through the mist, her voice reached me. 

" Oh, Peter ! I will not leave you — lean on me — 
there — there ! " And, little by little, those strong, gentle 
hands drew me up once more to light and life. And so she 
got me to a chair, and brought cool water, and washed 
the blood and sweat from me, as she had once before, only 
now my hurts were deeper, for nry head grew beyond my 
strength to support, and hung upon my breast, and ray 
brain throbbed with fire, and the mist was ever before my 
eyes. 

" Are you in much pain, Peter ? " 

" My head — only my head, Charmian — there is a bell 
ringing there, no — it is a hammer, beating." And indeed 
I remembered little for a while, save the touch of her 
hands and the soothing murmur of her voice, until I found 
she was kneeling beside me, feeding me with broth from a 
spoon. Wherefore I presently took the basin from her and 
emptied it at a gulp, and, finding myself greatly revived 
thereby, made some shift to eat of the supper she set 
before me. 



354 The Broad Highway 

So she presently came and sat beside me and ate also, 
watching me at each morsel. 

" Your poor hands ! " said she, and, looking down at 
them, I saw that my knuckles were torn and broken, and 
the fingers much swelled. " And yet," said Charmian, " ex- 
cept for the cut in your head, you are quite unmarked, 
Peter." 

" He fought mostly for the body," I answered, " and 
I managed to keep my face out of the way ; but he caught 
me twice — once upon the chin, lightly, and once up behind 
the ear, heavily; had his fist landed fairly I don't think 
even you could have brought me back from those loathly 
depths, Charmian." 

And in a while, supper being done, she brought my pipe, 
and filled it, and held the light for me. But my head 
throbbed woefully and for once the tobacco was flavorless ; 
so I sighed, and laid the pipe by. 

" Why, Peter ! " said Charmian, regarding me with an 
anxious frown, " can't you smoke? " 

" Not just now, Charmian," said I, and leaning my 
head in my hands, fell into a sort of coma, till, feeling her 
touch upon my shoulder, I started, and looked up. 

" You must go to bed, Peter." 

" No," said I. 

" Yes, Peter." 

" Very well, Charmian, yes — I will go to bed," and I 
rose. 

" Do you feel better now, Peter? " 

" Thank you, yes — much better." 

" Then why do you hold on to the chair? " 

" I am still a little giddy — but it will pass." And — ■• 
" Charmian — you forgive — " 

" Yes — yes, don't — don't look at me like that, Peter 
— and — oh, good night ! — foolish boy ! " 

" I am — twenty-five, Charmian ! " But as she turned 
away I saw that there were tears in her eyes. 

Dressed as I was, I lay down upon my bed, and, bury- 
ing my head in the pillow, groaned, for my pain was very 



How I Came up out of the Dark 355 

sore; indeed I was to feel the effects of George's fist for 
many a day to come, and it seems to me now that much of 
the morbid imaginings, the nightly horrors, and black de- 
spair, that I endured in the time which, immediately fol- 
lowed, was chiefly owing to that terrible blow upon the 
head. 



CHAPTER XXI 

OF THE OPENING OF THE DOOR, AND HOW CHARMIAN 
BLEW OUT THE UGHT 

He bestrode a powerful black charger, and his armor glit- 
tered through the green. And, as he rode beneath the 
leafy arches of the wood, he lifted up his voice, and sang, 
and the song was mournful, and of a plaintive seeming, and 
rang loud behind his visor-bars ; therefore, as I sat beside 
the freshet, I hearkened to his song: 

" For her love I carke, and care, 
For her love I droop, arid dare, 
For her love my bliss is bare, 
And I wax wan! " 

Forth he rode from the shadowy woodland, pacing very 
solemn a.nd slow ; and thrice he struck his iron hand upon 
his iron breast. 

*' For her love, in sleep 1 slake, 
For her love, all night I wake. 
For her love, I mourning make, 
More than any man! " 

Now, being come to where I sat beside the brook, he 
checked his horse, and gazed full long upon me, and his 
eyes shone from the gloom of his helmet. 

" Messire," quoth he; " how like you my song? " 

" But little, sir — to be plain with you, not a whit," I 
answered. 

" And, beseech you — wherefore? " 

" Because it is folly — away with it, for, if your head 
be full of such, how shall you achieve any lasting good — 



Of the Opening of the Door 357 

Glory, Learning, Power? " But, sighing, he shook his 
head ; quoth he : 

" O Blind One ! — Glory is but a name, Learning but a 
yearning emptiness, and whither leadeth Ambition? Man 
is a mote dancing in a sun-ray — the world, a speck hang- 
ing in space. All things vanish and pass utterly away save 
only True-love, and that abideth everlastingly ; 't is sweeter 
than Life, and stronger than Death, and reacheth up be- 
vond the stars ; and thus it is I pray you tell me — where 
is she?" 

"She?" 

" She whom ye love? " 

" I love no woman," said L 

" Liar ! " cried he, in a terrible voice, and the voice was 
the voice of* Black George. 

"And who are you that says so?" I demanded, and 
stood upon my feet. 

" Look — behold and know thyself, O Blind and more 
than blind ! " And, leaning down, he raised his visor so 
that the moonlight fell upon his face, and the face I looked 
upon was — my own ; and, while I gazed, he lifted up his 
voice, and cried: 

" Ye Spirits of the Wood, I charge ye — who is he that 
rideth in the green, dreaming ever of her beauty, and sigh- 
ing forth his love everlastingly, Spirits of the Wood, I 
charge ye ? " 

And out of the gloom of the wood, from every rustling 
leaf and opening bud, came a little voice that rose and 
blended in a soft, hushed chorus, crying: 

" Peter Vibart — Peter Vibart ! " 

" Spirits of the Wood, I charge ye — who is he that 
walketh to and fro in the world, and having eyes, seeth not, 
and ears, heareth not — a very Fool of Love?" 

Once again the voices cried in answer: 

" Peter Vibart ! — Peter Vibart ! " 

" Spirits of the Wood, I charge ye — who is he that shall 
love with a love mightier than most — who shall suffer 
greatly for love and because of it — who shall think of it 



358 The Broad Highway 

by day, and dream of it o' nights — who is he that must 
die to find love and the fulness of life? — Spirits of the 
Wood, I charge ye ! " 

And again from out the green came the soft, hushed 
chorus : 

" Peter Vibart — Peter Vibart ! " 

But, even as I laughed, came one from the wood, with a 
horse and armor. And the armor he girded on me, and the 
horse I mounted. And there, in the moonlit glade, we 
fought, and strove together, my Other Self and I. And, 
sudden and strong he smote me, so that I fell down from 
my horse, and lay there dead, with my blood soaking and 
soaking into the grass. And, as I watched, there came a 
blackbird that perched upon my breast, carolling glori- 
ously. Yet, little b}^ little, this bird changed, and lo ! in 
its place was a new Peter Vibart standing upon the old ; and 
the New trampled the Old down into the grass, and — it 
was gone. Then, with his eyes on the stars, the new Peter 
Vibart fell a-singing, and the words I sang were these: 

" For her love I carke, and care, 
For her love I droop, and dare, 
For her love my bliss is bare. 
And I wax wan!" 

And thus there came into my heart that which had been 
all unknown — undreamed of hitherto, yet which, once 
there, could never pass away. 

" O Spirits of the Wood, I charge ye — who is he that 
counteth True-love sweeter than Life — greater than Wis- 
dom — stronger than Death? O Spirits of the Wood, I 
charge ye ! " 

And the hushed voices chorused softly. 

"Peter Vibart — Peter Vibart!" And, while I lis- 
tened, one by one the voices ceased, till there but one re- 
mained — calling, calling, but ever soft and far away, and 
when I would have gone toward this voice — lo! there 
stood a knife quivering in the ground before me, that grew 
and grew until its haft touched heaven, yet still the voice 
called upon my name very softly: 



Of the Opening of the Door 359 

" Peter ! — Peter ! — oh, Peter, I want you ! — oh, 
Peter! — wake! wake!" I sat up in bed, and, as I lis- 
tened, grew suddenly sick, and a fit of trembling shook me 
violently, for the whisper was still in my ears, and in the 
whisper was an agony of fear and dread indescribable. 

" Peter ! — oh, Peter, I am afraid ! — wake ! wake ! " 

A cold sweat broke out upon me and I glared helplessly 
towards the door. 

" Quick, Peter ! — come to me — oh, God ! " 

I strove to move, but still I could not. And now, in the 
darkness, hands were shaking me wildly, and Charmian's 
voice was speaking in my ear. 

" The door ! " it whispered, "the door ! " 

Then I arose, and was in the outer room, with Charmian 
close beside me in the dark, and my eyes were upon the 
door. And then I beheld a strange thing, for a thin line 
of white light traversed the floor from end to end. Now, 
as I watched this narrow line, I saw that it was gradually 
widening and widening; very slowly, and with infinite 
caution, the door was being opened from without. In this 
remote place, in this still, dead hour of the night, full of 
the ghostly hush that ever precedes the dawn — there was 
something devilish — something very like mui ler in its 
stealthy motion. I heard Charmian's breath catch, and, 
in the dark, her hand came and crept into mine and her 
fingers were cold as death. 

And now a great anger came upon me, and I took a 
quick step forward, but Charmian restrained me. 

" No, Peter ! " she breathed ; " not yet — wait ! " and 
wound her arms round mine. 

In a corner near by stood that same trusty staff that 
had been the companion of my wanderings, and now I 
reached, and took it up, balancing it in my hand. And all 
the time I watched that line of light upon the floor widen- 
ing and widening, growing ever broader and more broad. 
The minutes dragged slowly by, while the line grew into 
a streak, and the streak into a lane, and upon the lane 
came a blot that slowly resolved itself into the shadow of 



360 The Broad Highway 

a hand upon the latch. Slowly, slowly, to the hand came 
a wrist, and to the wrist an arm — another minute, and 
this maddening suspense would be over. Despite Char- 
mian's restraining clasp, I crept a long pace nearer the 
softly moving door. 

The sharp angle of the elbow was growing obtuse as 
the shadowy arm straightened itself. Thirty seconds 
more! I began to count, and, gripping my staff, braced 
myself for what might be, when — with a sudden cry, 
Charmian sprang forward, and, hurling herself against 
the door, shut it with a crash. 

" Quick, Peter ! " she panted. I was beside her almost 
as she spoke, and had my hand upon the latch. 

" I must see who this was," said I. 

" You are mad ! " she cried. 

" Let me open the door, Charmian." 

" No, no — I say no ! " 

" Whoever it was must not escape — open the door ! " 

" Never ! never — I tell you — death is outside — 
there 's murder in the very air ; I feel it — and — dear 
God — the door has no bolt." 

" They are gone now — whoever they were," said I re- 
assuringly ; " the danger is over — if danger it could be 
called." 

" Danger ! " cried Charmian. " I tell you — it was 
death." 

" Yet, after all, it may have been only some homeless 
wanderer." 

" Then why that deadly, silent caution ? " 

" True ! " said I, becoming thoughtful. 

" Bring the table, Peter, and set it across the door." 

" Surely the table is too light to — " 

" But it will give sufficient warning — not that I shall 
sleep again to-night. Oh, Peter! had I not been dream- 
ing, and happened to wake — had I not chanced to look 
towards the door, it would have opened — wide, and then 
— oh, horrible ! " 

" You were dreaming? " 



Of the Opening of the Door 361 

" A hateful, hateful dream, and awoke in terror, and, 
being afraid, glanced towards the door, and saw it open- 
ing — and now — bring the table, Peter." 

Now, groping about, my hand encountered one of the 
candles, and taking out my tinder-box, all unthinking, I 
lighted it. 

Charmian was leaning against the door, clad in a flowing 
white garment — a garment that was wonderfully stitched 
— all dainty frills and laces, with here and there a bow of 
blue riband, disposed, it would seem, by the hand of 
chance, and yet most wonderfully. And up from this foam 
of laces her shoulders rose, white, and soft, and dimpled, 
sweeping up in noble lines to the smooth round column 
of her throat. But as I stared at all this loveliness she 
gave a sudden gasp, and stooped her head, and crossed her 
hands upon her bosom, while up over the snow of shoul- 
der, over neck and cheek and brow ebbed that warm, crim- 
son tide ; and I could only gaze and gaze — till, with a 
movement swift and light, she crossed to that betraying 
candle and, stooping, blew out the light. 

Then I set the table across the door, having done which 
I stood looking towards where she yet stood. 

" Charmian," said I. 

" Yes, Peter." 

" To-morrow — " 

"Yes, Peter?" 

" 1 will make a bar to hold the door." 

" Yes, Peter." 

" Two bars would be better, perhaps ? " 

" Yes, Peter." 

" You would feel safe, then — safer than ever? " 

" Safer than ever, Peter." 



CHAPTER XXII 

IN WHICH THE ANCIENT DISCOURSES ON LOVE 

I am forging a bar for my cottage door: such a bar as 
might give check to an army, or resist a battering-ram; 
a bar that shall defy all the night-prowlers that ever 
prowled; a stout, solid bar, broad as my wrist, and thick 
as my two fingers ; that, looking upon it as it lies in its 
sockets across the door, Charmian henceforth may sleep 
and have no fear. 

The Ancient sat perched on his stool in the corner, but 
for once we spoke little, for I was very busy ; also my mind 
was plunged in a profound reverie. 

And of whom should I be thinking but of Charmian, and 
of the dimple in her shoulder? 

" 'T is bewitched you be, Peter ! " said the old man sud- 
denly, prodding me softly with his stick, " bewitched as 
ever was," and he chuckled. 

" Bewitched ! " said I, starting. 

" Ah ! — theer you stand wi' your 'ammer in your 'and — i 
a-starin' an' a-starin' at nobody, nor nothin' — leastways 
not as 'uman eye can see, an' a-sighin', an' a-sighin' — " 

" Did I indeed sigh, Ancient ? " 

" Ah — that ye did — like a cow, Peter, or a 'orse — 
'eavy an' tired like. An' slow you be, an' dreamy — you as 
was so bright an' spry ; theer 's some — fools, like Joel 
Amos, as might think as 't were the work o' ghostes, or 
demons, a-castin' their spells on ye, or that some vampire 
'ad bit ye in the night, an' sucked your blood as ye lay 
asleep, but I know different — you 'm just bewitched, 
Peter ! " and he chuckled again. 



The Ancient Discourses on Love 363 

" Who knows ? — perhaps I am, but it will pass, what- 
ever it is, it will pass — " 

"Don't ye be too sure o' that — theer 's bewitchments 
an' bewitchments, Peter." 

Hereupon the smithy became full of the merry din of 
my hammer, and while I worked the Ancient smoked his 
pipe and watched me, informing me, between whiles, that 
the Jersey cow was " in calf," that the hops seemed more 
than usually forward, and that he had waked that morn- 
ing with a " touch o' the rheumatics," but, otherwise, he 
was unusually silent ; moreover, each time that I happened 
to glance up, it was to find him regarding me with a certain 
fixity of eye, which at another time would have struck me 
as portentous. 

" Ye be palish this marnin', Peter ! " said he, dabbing 
at me suddenly with his pipe-stem ; " should n't wonder if 
you was to tell me as your appetite was bad; come now 
— ye didn't eat much of a breakfus' this marnin', did 
ye?" 

" I don't think I did, Ancient." 

" A course not ! " said the old man, with a nod of pro- 
found approval — " it are n't to be expected. Let 's see, 
it be all o' four months since I found ye, bean't it? " 

" Four months and a few odd days," I nodded, and fell 
to work upon my glowing iron bar. 

" Ye '11 make a tidy smith one o' these days, Peter," said 
the old man encouragingly, as I straightened my back and 
plunged the iron back into the fire. 

" Thank you, Ancient." 

" Ay — you 've larned to use a 'ammer purty well, con- 
sidering though you be wastin' your opportoonities shame- 
ful, Peter, shameful." 

"Am I, Ancient?" 

" Ay, that ye be — moon can't last much longer — she 
be on the wane a'ready ! " 

"Moon?" said I, staring. 

" Ah, moon ! " nodded the old man ; " theer 's nowt like 
a moon, Peter, an' if she be at the full so much the better." 



364 The Broad Highway 

" But what have the moon and I to do with each other, 
Ancient? " 

" Old I be, Peter, a old, old man, but I were young 
once, an* I tell 'ee the moon 'as a lot more to do wi* it than 
some folks think — why, Lord love 'ee ! theer would n't 
be near so many children a-playin' in the sun if it was n't 
for the moon ! " 

" Ancient," said I, " what might you be driving at? " 

" Love, Peter ! " 

" Love ! " said I, letting go the handle of the bellows. 

" An' marriage, Peter." 

" What in the world — put — such thoughts into your 
head? " 

" You did, Peter." 

"I?" 

" Ah ! — some men is born lovers, Peter, an' you be one. 
I never see such eyes as yourn afore, so burnin' 'ot they 
be. AJi, Peter! some maid will see the lovelight aflame in 
'em some day, an' droop 'er 'ead an' blush an' tremble — 
for she '11 know, Peter, she '11 know ; maids was made to 
be loved, Peter — " 

" But, Ancient, I am not the kind of man women would 
be attracted by. I love books and solitude, and am called 
a — pedant ! and, besides, I am not of a loving sort — " 

" Some men, Peter, falls in love as easy as they falls out ; 
it comes to some soft an' quiet — like the dawn of a sum- 
mer's day, Peter; but to others it comes like a gert an' 
tur'ble storm — oh, that it do ! Theer 's a fire ready to burn 
up inside o' ye at the touch o' some woman's 'and, or the 
peep o' 'er eye — ah ! a fire as '11 burn, an' burn, an' never 
go out again — not even if you should live to be as old as 
I be — an' you '11 be strong an' wild an' fierce wi' it — an' 
some day you '11 find 'er, Peter, an' she '11 find you — " 

" And," said I, staring away into the distance, " do you 
think that, by any possible chance, she might love me, this 
woman? " 

" Ay, for sure," said the Ancient, " for sure she will ; 
why don't 'ee up an ax 'er? Wi' a fine, round moon over- 



The Ancient Discourses on Love 365 

'ead, an' a pretty maid at your elber, it 's easy enough to 
tell 'er you love 'er, aren't it?" 

" Indeed, yes," said I, beginning to rub my chin, " very 
easy ! " and I sighed. 

" An' when you looks into a pair o' sweet eyes, an' sees 
the shine o' the moon in 'em — why, it are n't so very fur 
to 'er lips, are it, Peter? " 

" No," said I, rubbing my chin harder than ever ; " no 
— and there 's the danger of it." 

" Wheer 's t' danger, Peter? " 

" Everywhere ! " I answered ; " in her eyes, in her thick, 
soft hair, the warmth of her breath, the touch of her hand, 
the least contact of her garments — her very step ! " 

" I knowed it ! " cried the Ancient j oy fully , peering at 
me under his brows ; " I knowed it ! " 

"Knew what?" 

" You be in loye — good lad ! good lad ! " and he flour- 
ished his pipe in the air. 

" In love ! " I exclaimed ; " in love — I? " 

" Sure as sure ! " 

" But love, according to Aristotle, is — " 

" Love, Peter, is what makes a man forget 'is breakfus', 
an' 'is work, an' 'is ^ — " 

" But I work very hard — besides - — " 

" Love is what makes a man so brave as a lion, Peter, 
an' fall a-tremblin' like a coward when She stands a-lookin' 
up at 'im; love makes the green earth greener, an' the 
long road short — ah ! almost too short, sometimes, the 
love of a woman comes betwixt a man an' all evils an' 
dangers — why don't 'ee up an' ax 'er, Peter ? " 

" She 'd laugh at me, Ancient." 

" Not she." 

" That soft, low laugh of hers." 

"Well, what o' that?" 

" Besides, she hardly knows me ! " 

The Ancient took out his snuff-box and gave two loud 
double knocks upon the lid. 

" A woman knows a man sooner than a man knows a 



366 The Broad Highway 

woman — ah, a sight sooner ! Why, Lord bless ye, Peter, 
she 'as 'im all reckoned up long afore 'e knows for sure if 
'er eyes be black 'uns or brown 'uns — that she 'as." Here 
he extracted a pinch of snuff. " As for Prudence — she 
loves 'ee wi' all 'er 'eart an' soul ! " 

" Prudence? " said I, staring. 

" Ah ! Prudence — I be 'er grandf ey ther, an' I know." 

" Prudence ! " said I again. 

" She 'm a 'andsome lass, an' so pretty as a picter — 
you said so yourself, an' what 's more, she 'm a sensible 
lass, an' '11 make ye as fine a wife as ever was if only — " 

" If only she loved me, Ancient." 

" To be sure, Peter." 

" But, you see, she does n't." 

" Eh — what ? What, Peter? " 

" Prudence does n't love me ! " 

"Doesn't—" 

" Not by any means." 

" Peter — ye 're jokin'." 

" No, Ancient." 

" But I — I be all took aback — mazed I be — not love 
ye, an' me wi' my 'eart set on it — are ye sure? " 

" Certain." 

"'Ow d'ye know?" 

" She told me so." 

" But — why — why should n't she love ye? " 

"Why should she?" 

" But I — I 'd set my 'eart on it, Peter." 

" It is very unfortunate ! " said I, and began blowing 
up the fire. 

" Peter." 

" Yes, Ancient? " 

"Do 'eelove she?" 

" No, Ancient." The old man rose, and, hobbling for- 
ward, tapped me upon the breast with the handle of his 
stick. 

" Then who was you a-talkin' of, a while back — 'bout 
'er eyes, an' 'er 'air, an' 'er dress, an' bein' afraid o' them? " 



The Ancient Discourses on Love 367 

" To be exact, I don't know, Ancient." 

" Oh, Peter ! " exclaimed the old man, shaking his head, 
" I wonders at ye ; arter me a-thinkin' an' a-thinkin', 
an' a-plannin' an' a-plannin' all these months — arter me 
a-sendin' Black Jarge about 'is business — " 

" Ancient, what do you mean ? " 

" Why, did n't I out an' tell un as you was sweet on 
Prue — " 

" Did you tell him that? " I cried. 

" Ay, to be sure I did ; an' what 's more, I says to un 
often an' often, when you was n't by : ' Jarge,' I 'd say, 
' Prue 's a lovely maid, an' Peter 's a fine young chap, an' 
they 'm beginnin' to find each other out, they be all'us 
a-talkin' to each other an' a-lookin' at each other, mornin', 
noon an' night ! ' I says ; ' like as not we '11 'ave 'em marryin' 
each other afore very long! ' an' Jarge 'ud just wrinkle up 
'is brows, an' walk away, an' never say a word. But now 
— it be tur'ble 'ard to be disapp'inted like this, Peter — 
arter I 'd set my 'eart on it — an' me such a old man — 
such a very ancient man. Oh, Peter! you be full o' dis- 
app'intments, an' all manner o' contrairiness ; sometimes 
I a'most wishes as I 'd never took the trouble to find ye 
at all!" 

And, with this Parthian shot, the old man sighed, and 
turned his back upon me, and tottered out of the forge. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

HOW GABBING DICK, THE PEDEER, SET A HAMMER GOING 
IN MY HEAD 

Having finished my bars, with four strong brackets to hold 
them, I put away my tools, and donned hat and coat. 

It was yet early, and there was, besides, much work wait- 
ing to be done, but I felt unwontedly tired and out of sorts, 
wherefore, with my bars and brackets beneath my arm, I 
set out for the Hollow. 

From the hedges, on either side of me, came the sweet 
perfume of the honeysuckle, and beyond the hedges the 
fields stood high with ripening corn — a yellow, heavy- 
headed host, nodding and swaying lazily. I stood awhile 
to listen to its whisper as the gentle wind swept over it, and 
to look down the long green alleys of the hop-gardens 
beyond; and at the end of one of these straight arched 
vistas there shone a solitary, great star. 

And presently, lifting my eyes to the sky, already deep- 
ening to evening, and remembering how I had looked round 
me ere I faced Black George, I breathed a sigh of thank- 
fulness that I was yet alive with strength to w T alk within 
a world so beautiful. 

Now, as I stood thus, I heard a voice hailing me, and, 
glancing about, espied one, some distance up the road, who 
sat beneath the hedge, whom, upon approaching, I recog- 
nized as Gabbing Dick, the Pedler. 

He nodded and grinned as I came up, but in both there 
was a vague unpleasantness, as also in the manner in which 
he eyed me slowly up and down. 



Gabbing Dick, the Pedler 369 

" You 've stood a-lookin' up into the sky for a good ten 
minutes ! " said he. 

"And what if I have? " 

" Nothing" said the Pedler, " nothin' at all — though if 
the moon 'ad been up, a cove might ha' thought as you was 
dreamin' of some Eve or other ; love-sick folk always stares 
at the moon — leastways, so they tell me. Any one as stares 
at the moon when 'e might be doin' summ'at better is a fool, 
as great a fool as any man as stares at a Eve, for a Eve 
never brought any man nothin' but trouble and sorrer, and 
never will, no'ow? Don't frown, young cove, nor shake 
your 'ead, for it 's true ; wot 's caused more sorrer an' blood 
than them Eves ? Blood ? — ah ! rivers of it 1 Oceans of 
good blood 's been spilt all along o' women, from the Eve 
as tricked old Adam to the Eve as tricks the like o' me, or 
say — yourself." Here he regarded me with so evil a leer 
that I turned my back in disgust. 

" Don't go, young cove ; I ain't done yet, and I got 
summ'at to tell ye." 

" Then tell it ! " said I, stopping again, struck by the 
fellow's manner, " and tell it quickly." 

" I 'm a-comin' to it as fast as I can, ain't I? Very well 
then ! You 're a fine, up-standin' young cove, and may 'ave 
white 'ands (which I don't see myself, but no matter) and 
may likewise be chock-full o' taking ways (which, though 
not noticin', I won't go for to deny) — but a Eve 's a Eve, 
and always will be — you '11 mind as I warned you again' 
'em last time I see ye ? — very well then ! " 

" Well? " said I "impatiently. 

" Well," nodded the Pedler, and his eyes twinkled malevo- 
lently. " I says it again — I warns you again. You 're 
a nice, civil-spoke young cove, and quiet (though I don't 
like the cock o' your eye), and, mind, I don't bear you no 
ill-will — though you did turn me from your door on a cold, 
dark night — " 

" It was neither a cold nor a dark night ! " said I. 

" Well, it might ha' been, might n't it ? — very well then ! 
Still, I don't," said the Pedler, spitting dejectedly into the 



370 The Broad Highway 

ditch, " I don't bear you no 'ard f eelin's for it, no'ow — me 
always makin' it a pint to forgive them as woefully op- 
presses me, likewise them as despitefully uses me — it might 
ha' been cold, and dark, wi' ice and snow, and I might ha' 
froze to death — but we won't say no more about it." 

" You 've said pretty well, I think," said I ; " supposing 
you tell me what you have to tell me — otherwise — good 
night ! " 

" Very well then ! " said the Pedler, " let 's talk o' sum- 
m'at else ; still livin' in the 'Oiler, I suppose ? " 

" Yes." 

" Ah, well ! I come through there today," said he, grin- 
ning, and again his eyes grew malevolent. 

" Indeed? " 

" Ah ! — indeed ! I come through this 'ere very arter- 
noon, and uncommon pretty everythin' was lookin', wi' the 
grass so green, and the trees so — so — " 

" Shady." 

" Shady 's the word ! " nodded the Pedler, glancing up at 
me through his narrowed eyelids, and chuckling. " A para- 
dise you might call it — ah ! a paradise or a — garden of 
Eden, wi' Eve and the serpent and all ! " and he broke out 
into a cackling laugh. And, in the look and the laugh, in- 
deed about his whole figure, there was something so repel- 
lent, so evil, that I was minded to kick and trample him 
down into the ditch, yet the leering triumph in his eyes 
held me. 

"Yes? "said I. 

" Ye see, bein' by, I 'appened to pass the cottage — and 
very pretty that looked too, and nice and neat inside ! " 

"Yes?" said I. 

" And, bein' so near, I 'appened to glance in at the 
winder, and there, sure enough, I see — 'er — as you 
might say, Eve in the gardin. And a fine figure of a Eve 
she be, and 'andsome wi' it — 't ain't often as you see a 
maid the likes o' 'er, so proud and 'aughty like." 

"Well?" 

" Well, just as I 'appened to look in at the winder, she 



Gabbing Dick, the Pedler 371 

'appened to be standin' wi' an open book in 'er 'and — a 
old, leather book wi' a broken cover." 

"Yes?" said L 

" And she was a-laughin' — and a pretty, soft, Eve's 
laugh it were, too." 

"Yes?" said L 

" And — 'e were a-lookin' at the book — over 'er 
shoulder ! " The irons slipped from rny grasp, and fell 
with a harsh clang. 

" Ketches ye, does it? " said the Pedler. I did not speak, 
but, meeting my eye, he scrambled hastily to his feet, and, 
catching up his pack, retreated some little way down the 
road. 

" Ketches ye, does it, my cove ? " he repeated ; " turn me 
away from your door on a cold, dark night, would ye (not 
as I bears you any ill-will for it, bein' of a forgivin' 
natur')? But I says to you, I says — look out! — a fine 
'andsome lass she be, wi' 'er soft eyes and red lips, and long, 
white arms — the eyes and lips and arms of a Eve ; and 
Eve tricked Adam, didn't she? — and you ain't a better 
man nor Adam, are ye ? — very well then ! " saying which, 
he spat once more into the ditch, and, shouldering his 
pack, strode away. 

And, after some while, I took up my iron bars, and 
trudged on towards the cottage. As I went, I repeated to 
myself, over and over again, the word " Liar." Yet my 
step was very slow and heavy, and my feet dragged in the 
dust; and, somewhere in my head, a small hammer had 
begun to beat, soft and slow and regular, but beating, 
beating upon my brain. 

Now the upper cover of my Virgil booh was broken! 



CHAPTER XXIV 

THE VIRGIL BOOK 

A man was leaning in the shadow of a tree, looking down 
into the Hollow. 

I could not see him very distinctly because, though even- 
ing had scarcely fallen, the shadows, where he stood, were 
very dense, but he was gazing down into the Hollow in 
the attitude of one who waits. For what? — for whom? 

A sudden fit of shivering shook me from head to foot, 
and, while I yet shivered, I grew burning hot; the blood 
throbbed at my temples, the small hammer was drumming 
much faster now, and the cool night air seemed to be 
stifling me. 

Very cautiously I began creeping nearer the passive 
figure, while the hammer beat so loud that it seemed he 
must hear it where he stood: a shortish, broad-shouldered 
figure, clad in a blue coat. He held his hat in his hand, 
and he leaned carelessly against the tree, and his easy 
assurance of air maddened me the more. 

As he stood thus, looking always down into the Hollow, 
his neck gleamed at me above the collar of his coat, where- 
fore I stooped and, laying my irons in the grass, crept 
on, once more, and, as I went, I kept my eyes upon his 
neck. 

A stick snapped sharp and loud beneath my tread, the 
lounging back stiffened and grew rigid, the face showed 
for an instant over the shoulder, and, with a spring, he 
had vanished into the bushes. 

It was a vain hope to find a man in such a dense tangle 
of boughs and underbrush, yet I ran forward, nevertheless ; 



The Virgil Book 373 

but, though I sought eagerly upon all sides, he had made 
good his escape. So, after a while, I retraced my steps to 
where I had left my irons and brackets, and taking them 
up, turned aside to that precipitous path which, as I have 
already said, leads down into the Hollow. 

Now, as I went, listening to the throb of the hammer 
in my head, whom should I meet but Charmian, coming 
gayly through the green, and singing as she came. At 
sight of me she stopped, and the song died upon her 

up. 

" Why — why, Peter — you look pale — dreadfully 
pale — " 

" Thank you, I am very well ! " said I. 

" You have not been — fighting again ? " 

"Why should I have been fighting, Charmian?" 

" Your eyes are wild — and fierce, Peter." 

" Were you coming to — to — meet me, Charmian? " 

" Yes, Peter." Now, watching beneath my brows, it 
almost seemed that her color had changed, and that her 
eyes, of set purpose, avoided mine. Could it be that she 
was equivocating? 

" But I — am much before my usual time, to-night, 
Charmiam." 

'* Then there will be no waiting for supper, and I am 
ravenous, Peter ! " 

And as she led the way along the path she began to sing 
again. 

Being come to the cottage, I set down my bars and 
brackets, with a clang. 

" These," said I, in answer to her look, " are the bars 
I promised to make for the door." 

" Do you always keep your promises, Peter? " 

" I hope so." 

" Then," said she, coming to look at the great bars, with 
a fork in her hand, for she was in the middle of dishing 
up, " then, if you promise me always to come home by the 
road, and never through the coppice — you will do so, 
won't you? " 



374 The Broad Highway 

" Why should I? " I inquired, turning sharply to look 
at her. 

"'Because the coppice is so dark and lonely, and if — I 
say, if I should take it into my head to come and meet you 
sometimes, there would be no chance of my missing you." 
And so she looked at me and smiled, and, going back to 
her cooking, fell once more a-singing, the while I sat and 
watched her beneath my brows. 

Surely, surely no woman whose heart was full of deceit 
could sing so blithely and happily, or look at one with such 
sweet candor in her eyes? 

And yet the supper was a very ghost of a meal, for when 
I remembered the man who had watched and waited, the 
very food grew nauseous and seemed to choke me. " She 's 
a Eve — a Eve ! " rang a voice in my ear ; " Eve tricked 
Adam, did n't she, and you ain't a better man nor Adam ; 
she 's a Eve — a Eve ! " 

" Peter, you eat nothing." 

" Yes, indeed ! " said I, staring unseeingly down at my 
plate, and striving to close my ears against the fiendish 
voice. 

" And you are very pale ! " 

I shrugged my shoulders. 

" Peter — look at me." 

I looked up obediently. 

" Yes, you are frightfully pale — are you ill again — is 
it your head; Peter — what is it?" and, with a sudden, 
half-shy gesture, she stretched her hand to me across the 
table. And as I looked from the mute pity of her eyes to 
the mute pity of that would-be comforting hand, I had a 
great impulse to clasp it close in mine, to speak, and tell 
her all my base and unworthy suspicions, and, once more, 
to entreat her pardon and forgiveness. The words were 
upon my lips, but I checked them, madman that I was, and 
shook my head. 

" It is nothing," I answered, " unless it be that I have 
not yet recovered from Black George's fist ; it is nothing ! " 
And so the meal drew to an end, and though, feeling my 



The Virgil Book 375 

thoughts base, I sat with my head on my hand and my eyes 
upon the cloth, yet I knew she watched me, and more than 
once I heard her sigh. A man who acts on impulse may 
sometimes be laughed at for his mistakes, but he will fre- 
quently attain to higher things, and be much better loved 
by his fellows than the colder, more calculating logician who 
rarely makes a blunder; and Simon Peter was a man of 
impulse. 

Supper being over and done, Charmian must needs take 
my coat, despite my protests, and fall to work upon its 
threadbare shabbiness, mending a great rent in the sleeve. 
And, watching her through the smoke of my pipe, noting 
the high mould of her features, the proud poise of her head, 
the slender elegance of her hands, I was struck sharply by 
her contrast to the rough, bare walls that were my home* 
and the toil-worn, unlovely garment beneath her fingers. 
As I looked, she seemed to be suddenly removed from me 
— far above and beyond my reach. 

" That is the fourth time, Peter." 

"What, Charmian?" 

" That is the fourth time you have sighed since you 
lighted your pipe, and it is out, and you never noticed 
it!" 

" Yes" said I, and laid the pipe upon the table and 
sighed again, before I could stop myself. Charmian raised 
her head, and looked at me with a laugh in her eyes. 

" Oh, most philosophical, dreamy blacksmith ! where be 
your thoughts? " 

" I was thinking how old and worn and disreputable my 
coat looked." 

" Indeed, sir," said Charmian, holding it up and re- 
garding it with a little frown, " forsooth it is ancient? 
and hath seen better days." 

** Like its wearer ! " said I, and sighed again. 

" Hark to this ancient man ! " she laughed, " this hoary- 
headed blacksmith of ours, who sighs, and forever sighs; 
if it could possibly be that he had met any one sufficiently 
worthv — I should think that he had fallen — philosophic 



376 The Broad Highway 

cally — in love ; how think you, Sir Knight of the Rueful 
Countenance? " 

" I remember," said I, " that, among other things, you 
once called me * Superior Mr. Smith.' " Charmian laughed 
and nodded her head at me. 

" You had been describing to me some quite impossible, 
idealistic creature, alone worthy of your regard, sir." 

" Do you still think me 6 superior,' Charmian? " 

" Do you still dream of your impalpable, bloodlessly- 
perfect ideals, sir? " 

" No," I answered ; " no, I think I have done with 
dreaming." 

" And I have done with this, thy coat, for behold ! it 
is finished," and rising, she folded it over the back of my 
chair. 

Now, as she stood thus behind me, her hand fell and, for 
a moment, rested lightly upon my shoulder. 

" Peter." 

" Yes, Charmian." 

" I wish, yes, I do wish that you were either much 
younger or very much older." 

"Why?" 

" Because you would n't be quite so — so cryptic — such 
a very abstruse problem. Sometimes I think I understand 
you better than you do yourself, and sometimes I am 
utterly lost; now, if you were younger I could read you 
easily for myself, and, if you were older, you would read 
yourself for me." 

" I was never very young ! " said I. 

" No, you were always too repressed, Peter." 

" Yes, perhaps I was." 

" Repression is good up to a certain point, but beyond 
that it is dangerous," said she, with a portentous shake 
of the head. " Heigho ! was it a week or a year ago that 
you avowed yourself happy, and couldn't tell why?" 

" I was the greater fool ! " said I. 

" For not knowing why, Peter ? " 

" For thinking myself happy ! " 



The Virgil Book 377 

" Peter, what is happiness ? " 

" An idea," said I, " possessed generally of fools ! " 

" And what is misery? " 

" Misery is also an idea." 

"Possessed only by the wise, Peter; surely he is wiser 
who chooses happiness?" 

" Neither happiness nor misery comes from choice," 

" But — if one seeks happiness, Peter ? " 

" One will assuredly find misery ! " said I, and, sighmg, 
rose, and taking my hammer from its place above my book- 
shelf, set to work upon my brackets, driving them deep 
into the heavy framework of the door. All at once I 
stopped, with my hammer poised, and, for no reason in 
the world, looked back at Charmian, over my shoulder;, 
looked to find her watching me with eyes that were (if it 
could well be) puzzled, wistful, shy, and glad at one and 
the same time ; eyes that veiled themselves swiftly before 
my look, yet that shot one last glance, between their lashes, 
in which were only joy and laughter. 

"Yes?" said I, answering the look. But she only 
stooped her head and went on sewing; yet the color was 
bright in her cheeks. 

And, having driven in the four brackets, or staples, and 
closed the door, I took up the bars and showed her how 
they were to lie crosswise across the door, resting in the 
brackets. 

" We shall be safe now, Peter," said she ; " those bars 
would resist — an elephant." 

" I think they would," I nodded ; " but there is yet some- 
thing more." Going to my shelf of books I took thence 
the silver-mounted pistol she had brought with her, and 
balanced it in my hand. " To-morrow I will take this to 
Cranbrook, and buy bullets to fit it." 

" Why, there are bullets there — in one of the old shoes,, 
Peter." 

" They are too large ; this is an unusually small calibre,. 
and yet it would be deadly enough at close range. I will 
load it for you, Charmian, and give it into your keeping,, 



378 The Broad Highway 

in case you should ever — grow afraid again, when I am 
not by ; this is a lonely place — for a woman — at all 
times." 

" Yes, Peter." She was busily employed upon a piece 
of embroidery, and began to sing softly to herself again 
as she worked, — that old song which worthy Mr. Pepys 
mentions having heard from the lips of mischievous-eyed 
Nell Gwynn: 

"In Scarlet town, where I was born, 
There was a fair maid dwellin', 
Made every youth cry WeU-a-way ! 
Her name was Barbara Allen.' " 

" Are you so happy, Charmian? " 

" Oh, sir, indifferent well, I thank you. 

" ' All in the merry month of May 
When green buds they were swellin', 
Young Jemmy Grove on his death-bed lay. 
For love of Barbara Allen.' 



" Are you so — miserable, Peter? " 

"Why do you ask?" 

" Because you sigh, and sigh, like — poor Jemmy Grove 
in the song." 

" He was a fool ! " said I. 

" For sighing, Peter? " 

" For dying." 

" I suppose no philosopher could ever be so — f oolish, 
Peter? " ' 

" No," said I ; " certainly not ! " 

" It is well to be a philosopher, is n't it, Peter? " 

" Hum ! " said I, and once more set about lighting my 
pipe. Anon I rose and, crossing to the open door, looked 
out upon the summer night, and sighed, and coming back, 
sat watching Charmian's busy fingers. 

" Charmian," said I at last. 

"Yes, Peter?" 

" Do you — ever see any — any — men lurking about 
the Hollow — when I am away ? " Her needle stopped 
suddenly, and she did not look up as she answered: 



The Virgil Book 379 

"No, Peter!" 

" Never ? — are you — sure, Charmian ? " The needle 
began to fly t© and fro again, but still she did not look up. 

" No — of course not — how should I see any one ? I 
scarcely go beyond the Hollow, and — I 'm busy all 
<*ay." 

" A Eve — a Eve ! " said a voice in my ear. " Eve 
tricked Adam, did n't she ? — a Eve ! " 

After this I sat for a long time without moving, my 
mind harassed with doubts and a hideous, morbid dread. 
Why had she avoided my eye? Her own were pure and 
truthful, and could not lie! Why, why had they avoided 
mine? If only she had looked at me! 

Presently I rose and began to pace up and down the 
room. 

" You are very restless, Peter ! " 

"Yes," said I; " yes, I fear I am — you must pardon 
me — " 

"Why not read?" 

" Indeed I had not thought of my books." 

" Then read me something aloud, Peter." 

" I will read you the sorrow of Achilles for the loss of 
Briseis," said I, and, going into the corner, I raised my 
hand to my shelf of books — and stood there with hand 
upraised yet touching no book, for a sudden spasm 
seemed to have me in its clutches, and once again the 
trembling seized me, and the hammer had recommenced 
its beat, beating upon my brain. 

And, in a while, I turned from my books, and, crossing 
to the door, leaned there with my back to her lest she 
should see my face just then. 

"I — I don't think I — will read— to-night! " said I 
at last. 

" Very well, Peter, let us talk." 

" Or talk," said I ; " I — I think I '11 go to bed. Pray," 
I went on hurriedly, for I was conscious that she had raised 
her head and was looking at me in some surprise, " pray 
excuse me — I 'm very tired." So, while she yet stared at 



380 The Broad Highway 

me, I turned away, and, mumbling a good night, went into 
my chamber, and closing the door, leaned against it, for 
my mind was sick with dread, and sorrow, and a great 
anguish ; for now I knew that Charmian had lied to me — 
my Virgil book had been moved from its usual place. 



CHAPTER XXV 

IN WHICH THE HEADER SHALE FIND EITTEE TO DO 
WITH THE STORY, AND MAY, THEREFORE, SKIP 

Is there anywhere in the world so damnable a place of tor- 
ment as a bed? To lie awake through the slow, dragging 
hours, surrounded by a sombre quietude from whose stifling 
blackness thoughts, like demons, leap to catch us by the 
throat; or, like waves, come rolling in upon us, cease- 
lessly, remorselessly — burying us beneath their resistless 
flow, catching us up, whirling us dizzily aloft, dashing us 
down into depths infinite ; now retreating, now advancing, 
from whose oncoming terror there is no escape, until we 
are once more buried beneath their stifling rush. 

To lie awake, staring wide-eyed into a crowding dark- 
ness wherein move terrors unimagined; to bury our throb- 
bing temples in pillows of fire; to roll and toss until the 
soul within us cries out in agony, and we reach out fran- 
tic hands into a void that mocks us by the contrast of its 
deep and awful quiet. At such times fair Reason runs 
affrighted to hide herself, and foaming Madness fills her 
throne; at such times our everyday sorrows, howsoever 
small and petty they be, grow and magnify themselves 
until they overflow the night, filling the universe above and 
around us ; and of all the woes the human mind can bear 
— surely Suspicion gnaws deeper than them all ! 

So I lay beneath the incubus, my temples clasped tight 
between my burning palms to stay the maddening ring of 
the hammer in my brain. And suspicion grew into cer- 
tainty, and with certainty came madness ; imagination ran 



382 The Broad Highway 

riot : she was a Messalina — a Julia — a Joan of Naples 
— a veritable Suceuba — a thing polluted, degraded, and 
abominable ; and, because of her beauty, I cursed all beau- 
tiful things, and because of her womanhood, I cursed all 
women. And ever the hammer beat upon my brain, and 
foul shapes danced before my eyes — shapes so insanely 
hideous and revolting that, of a sudden, I rose from my 
bed, groaning, and coming to the casement — leaned out. 

0h! the cool, sweet purity of the night! I heard the 
soft stir and rustle of leaves all about me, and down from 
heaven came a breath of wind, and in the wind a great rain- 
drop that touched my burning brow like the finger of God. 
And, leaning there, with parted lips and closed eyes, grad- 
ually my madness left me, and the throbbing in my brain 
grew less. 

How many poor mortals, since the world began, sleepless 
and anguish-torn — even as I — have looked up into that 
self-same sky and sorrowed for the dawn! 

*' For her love, in sleep I slake, 
For her love, all night I wake, 
For her love, I mourning make 
More than any man! " 

Poor fool ! to think that thou couldst mourn more than 
thy kind ! 

Thou 'rt but a little handful of gray dust, ages since, 
thy name and estate long out of mind; where'er thou art, 
thou shouldst have got you wisdom by now, perchance. 

Poor fool ! that thou must love a woman — and wor- 
ship with thy love, building for her an altar in thine heart. 
If altar crumble and heart burst, is she to blame who is but 
woman, or thou, who wouldst have made her all divine? 

Well, thou 'rt dead — a small handful of gray dust, 
long since — perchance thou hast got thee wisdom ere now 
— poor fool — O Fool Divine ! 

As thou art now, thy sleepless nights forgot — the cark- 
ing sorrows of thy life all overpast, and done — so must I 
some time be, and, ages hence, shall smile at this, and 
reckon it no more than a broken toy — heigho ! 



Little to Do with the Story 383 

And so I presently turned back to my tumbled bed, but 
it seemed to me that torment and terror still waited me 
there ; moreover, I was filled with a great desire for action. 
This narrow chamber stifled me, while outside was the stir 
of leaves, the gentle breathing of the wind, the cool murmur 
of the brook, with night brooding over all, deep and soft 
and still. 

Being now dressed, I stood awhile, deliberating how I 
might escape without disturbing her who slumbered in the 
outer room. So I came to the window, and thrusting my 
head and shoulders sidewise through the narrow lattice, 
slowly, and with much ado, wriggled myself out. Rising 
from my hands and knees, I stood up and threw wide my 
arms to the perfumed night, inhaling its sweetness in great* 
deep breaths, and so turned my steps towards the brook, 
drawn thither by its rippling melody; for a brook is a 
companionable thing, at all times, to a lonely man, and very 
full of wise counsel and friendly admonitions, if he but 
have ears to hear withal. 

Thus, as I walked beside the brook, it spoke to me of 
many things, grave and gay, delivering itself of observa- 
tions upon the folly of Humans, comparing us very un- 
favorably with the godlike dignity of trees, the immuta- 
bility of mountains, and the profound philosophy of 
brooks. Indeed it waxed most eloquent upon this theme, 
caustic, if you will, but with a ripple, between whiles, like 
the deep-throated chuckle of the wise old philosopher it 
was. 

" Go to ! " chuckled the brook. " Oh, heavy-footed, 
heavy-sighing Human — go to ! It is written that Man 
was given dominion over birds and beasts and fishes, and 
all things made, yet how doth Man, in all his pride, com- 
pare with even a little mountain? And, as to birds and 
beasts and fishes, they provide for themselves, day in and 
day out, while Man doth starve and famish ! To what end 
is Man born but to work, beget his kind, and die ? O Man ! 
lift up thy dull-sighted eyes — behold the wonder of the 
world, and the infinite universe about thee ; behold thyself, 



384 The Broad Highway 

and see thy many failings and imperfections, and thy stu- 
pendous littleness — go to ! Man was made for the world, 
and not the world for man ! Man is a leaf in the forest — 
a grain of dust borne upon the wind, and, when the wind 
faileth, dust to dust returneth; out upon thee, with thy 
puny griefs and sorrows. 

" Man ! — who hath dominion over all things save 
thine own heart, and who, in thy blind egotism, setteth 
thyself much above me, who am but a runlet of water. O 
Man ! I tell thee, when thou art dusty bones, I shall still 
be here, singing to myself in the sun or talking to some 
other poor human fool, in the dark. Go to ! " chuckled the 
brook, " the Wheel of Life turneth ever faster and faster ; 
the woes of to-day shall be the woes of last year, or ever 
thou canst count them all — out upon thee — go to ! " 



CHAPTER XXVI 

OF STORM, AND TEMPEST, AND HOW I MET ONE 
PBAYING IN THE DAWN 

On I went, chin on breast, heedless of all direction — now 
beneath the shade of trees, now crossing grassy glades or 
rolling meadow, or threading my way through long alleys 
of hop-vines; on and on, skirting hedges, by haycocks 
looming ghostly in the dark, by rustling cornfields, through 
wood and coppice, where branches touched me, as I passed, 
like ghostly fingers in the dark ; on I went, lost to all things 
but my own thoughts. And my thoughts were not of Life 
nor Death nor the world nor the spaces beyond the world 
— but of my Virgil book with the broken cover, and of him 
who had looked at it — over her shoulder. And, raising 
my hands, I clasped them about my temples, and, leaning 
against a tree, stood there a great while. Yet, when the 
trembling fit had left me, I went on again, and with every 
footstep there rose a voice within me, crying : " Why ? 
Why? Why?" 

Why should I, Peter Vibart, hale and well in bod}', 
healthy in mind — why should I fall thus into ague-spasms 
because of a woman — of whom I knew nothing, who had 
come I knew not whence, accompanied by one whose pres- 
ence, under such conditions, meant infamy to any woman ; 
why should I burn thus in a fever if she chose to meet an- 
other while I was abroad? Was she not free to follow her 
own devices ; had I any claim upon her ; by what right did 
I seek to compass her goings and comings, or interest my- 
self in her doings? Why? Why? Why? 



386 The Broad Highway 

As I went, the woods gradually fell away, and I came 
out upon an open place. The ground rose sharply before 
me, but I climbed on and up and so, in time, stood upon a 
hill. 

Now, standing upon this elevation, with the woods loom- 
ing dimly below me, as if they were a dark tide hemming 
me in on all sides, I became conscious of a sudden great 
quietude in the air — a stillness that was like the hush of 
expectancy; not a sound came to me, not a whisper from 
the myriad leaves below. 

But, as I stood there listening, very faint and far away, 
I heard a murmur that rose and died and rose again, that 
swelled and swelled into x he roll of distant thunder. Down 
in the woods was a faixt rustling, as if some giant were 
stirring among the leaves, and out of their depths breathed 
a puff of wind that fanned my cheek, and so was gone. 
But, in a while, it was back again, stronger, more insist- 
ent than before, till, sudden as it came, it died away again, 
and all was hushed and still, save only for the tremor down 
there among the leaves ; but lightning flickered upon the 
horizon, the thunder rolled nearer and nearer, and the giant 
grew ever more restless. 

Round about me, in the dark, were imps that laughed 
and whispered together, and mocked me amid the leaves : 

" Who is the madman that stands upon a lonely hill at 
midnight, bareheaded, half clad, and hungers for the 
storm? Peter Vibart! Peter Vibart! Who is he that, 
having eyes, sees not, and having ears, hears not? Peter 
Vibart! Peter Vibart! Blow, Wind, and buffet him! 
Flame, O Lightning, that he may see! Roar, Thunder, 
that he may hear and know ! " 

Upon the stillness came a rustling, loud and ever louder, 
drowning all else, for the giant was awake at last, and 
stretching himself; and now, up he sprang with a sudden 
bellow, and, gathering himself together, swept up towards 
me through the swaying treetops, pelting me with broken 
twigs and flying leaves, and filling the air with the tumult 
oi his coming. 



Of Storm and Tempest 387 

Oh, the wind ! — the bellowing, giant wind ! On he came, 
exulting, whistling through my hair, stopping my breath, 
roaring in my ears his savage, wild halloo ! And, as if in 
answer, forth from the inky heaven burst a jagged, blind- 
ing flame, that zigzagged down among the tossing trees, 
and vanished with a roaring thunder-clap that seemed to 
stun all things to silence. But not for long, for in the dark- 
ness came the wind again — fiercer, wilder than before, 
shrieking a defiance. The thunder crashed above me, and 
the lightning quivered in the air about me, till my eyes 
ached with the swift transitions from pitch darkness to 
dazzling light — light in which distant objects started out 
clear and well defined, only to be lost again in a swirl of 
blackness. And now came rain — a sudden, hissing down- 
pour, long threads of scintillating fire where the lightning 
caught it — rain that wetted me through and through. 

The storm was at its height, and, as I listened, rain and 
wind and thunder became merged and blended into awful 
music — a symphony of Life and Death played by the 
hands of God ; and I was an atom — a grain of dust — 
an insect, to be crushed by God's little finger. And yet 
needs must this insect still think upon its little self — 
for half drowned, deafened, blind, and half stunned though 
I was, still the voice within me cried: "Why? Why? 
Why? " 

Why was I here instead of lying soft and sheltered, and 
sleeping the blessed sleep of tired humanity? Why was I 
here, with death about me — and why must I think, and 
think, and think of Her? 

The whole breadth of heaven seemed torn asunder — 
blue flame crackled in the air; it ran hissing along the 
ground ; then — blackness, and a thunderclap that shook 
the very hill beneath me, and I was down upon my knees, 
with the swish of the rain about me. 

Little by little upon this silence stole the rustle of leaves, 
and in the leaves were the imps who mocked me: 

" Who is he that doth love — in despite of himself, and 
shall do, all his days — be she good or evil, whatever she 



388 The Broad Highway- 

was, whatever she is? Who is the very Fool of Love* 
Peter Vibart ! Peter Vibart ! " 

And so I bowed my face upon my hands, and remained 
thus a great while, heeding no more the tempest about me. 
For now indeed was my question answered, and my fear 
realized. 

" I love her ! — whatever she was — whatever she is — 
good or evil — I love her. O Fool ! — O most miserable 
Fool!" 

And presently I rose, and went on down the hill. Fast 
I strode, stumbling and slipping, plunging on heedlessly 
through bush and brake until at last, looking about me, 
I found myself on the outskirts of a little spinney or copse ; 
and then I became conscious that the storm had passed, 
for the thunder had died down to a murmur, and the rain 
had ceased ; only all about me were little soft sounds, as if 
the trees were weeping silently together. 

Pushing on, I came into a sort of narrow lane, grassy 
underfoot and shut in on either hand by very tall hedges 
that loomed solid and black in the night ; and, being spent 
and weary, I sat down beneath one of these and propped 
my chin in my hands. 

How long I remained thus I cannot say, but I was at 
length aroused by a voice — a strangely sweet and gentle 
voice at no great distance, and the words it uttered were 
these : 

" Oh ! give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for 
His mercy endureth forever! O Lord! I beseech Thee 
look down in Thine infinite pity upon this, Thy world; for 
lo! day is at hand, and Thy children must soon awake to 
life and toil and temptation. Oh ! Thou who art the Lover 
of Men, let Thy Holy Spirit wait to meet with each one of 
us upon the threshold of the dawn, and lead us through 
this coming day. Like as a father pitieth his children, so 
dost Thou pity all the woeful and heavy-hearted. Look 
down upon all those who must so soon awake to their griefs, 
speak comfortably to them; remember those in pain who 
must so soon take up their weary burdens! Look down 



Of Storm and Tempest 389 

upon the hungry and the rich, the evil and the good, that, 
in this new day, finding each something of Thy mercy, they 
may give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His 
mercy endure th forever." 

So the voice ended, and there were silence and a profound 
stillness upon all things ; wherefore, lifting my eyes unto 
the east, I saw that it was dawn. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

THE EPILEPTIC 

Now, when the prayer was ended, I turned my back upon 
the lightening east and set off along the lane. 

But, as I went, I heard one hailing me, and glancing 
round, saw that in the hedge was a wicket-gate, and over 
this gate a man was leaning. A little, thin man with the 
face of an ascetic, or mediaeval saint, a face of a high and 
noble beauty, upon whose scholarly brow sat a calm 
serenity, yet beneath which glowed the full, bright eye of 
the man of action. 

" Good morning, friend ! " said he ; " welcome to my 
solitude. I wish you j oy of this new day of ours ; it is 
cloudy yet, but there is a rift down on the horizon — it will 
be a fair day, I think." 

" On the contrary, sir," said I, " to me there are all the 
evidences of the bad weather continuing. I think it will 
be a bad day, with rain and probably thunder and light- 
ning ! Good morning, sir ! " 

" Stay ! " cried he as I turned away, and, with the word, 
set his hand upon the gate, and, vaulting nimbly over, came 
towards me, with a broad-brimmed straw hat in one hand 
and a long-stemmed wooden pipe in the other. 

" Sir," said he, " my cottage is close by ; you look worn 
and jaded. Will you not step in and rest awhile? " 

" Thank you, sir ; but I must be upon my way." 

" And whither lies your way ? " 

" To Sissinghurst, sir." 

" You have a long walk before you, and, with your per- 
mission, I will accompany you a little way." 



The Epileptic 391 

" With pleasure, sir ! " I answered, " though I fear you 
will find me a moody companion, and a somewhat silent one ; 
but then, I shall be the better listener, so light your pipe y 
sir, and, while you smoke, talk." 

" My pipe ! " said he, glancing down at it ; " ah ! yes — 
I was about to compose my Sunday evening's sermon." 

" You are a clergyman, sir ? " 

" No, no — a preacher — or say rather — a teacher, 
and a very humble one, who, striving himself after Truth, 
seeks to lend such aid to others as he may." 

" Truth! " said I; " what is Truth? " 

" Truth, sir, is that which can never pass away ; the 
Truth of Life is Good Works, which abide everlastingly." 

" Sir," said I, " you smoke a pipe, I perceive, and 
should, therefore, be a good preacher; for smoking begets 
thought — " 

" And yet, sir, is not to act greater than to think ? " 

" Why, Thought far outstrips puny Action ! " said I — 
" it reaches deeper, soars higher ; in our actions we are 
pigmies, but in our thoughts we may be gods, and embrace 
a universe." 

" But," sighed the Preacher, " while we think, our 
fellows perish in ignorance and want ! " 

"Hum! "said I. 

" Thought," pursued the Preacher, " may become a vice, 
as it did with the old-time monks and hermits, who, shut- 
ting themselves away from their kind, wasted their lives 
upon their knees, thinking noble thoughts and dreaming 
of holy things, but — leaving the world very carefully to 
the devil. And, as to smoking, I am seriously consider- 
ing giving it up." Here he took the pipe from his lips and 
thrust it behind his back. 

"Why?" 

" It has become, unfortunately, too human ! It is a 
strange thing, sir," he went on, smiling and shaking his 
he* d, " that this, my one indulgence, should breed me 
more discredit than all the cardinal sins, and become a 
stumbling-block to others. Only last Sunday I happened 



392 The Broad Highway 

to overhear two white-headed old fellows talking. ' A fine 
sermon, Giles ? ' said the one. ' Ah ! good enough,' replied 
the other, ' but it might ha' been better — ye see — 'e 
smokes ! ' So I am seriously thinking of giving it up, for 
it would appear that if a preacher prove himself as human 
as his flock, they immediately lose faith in him, and become 
deaf to his teaching." 

" Very true, sir ! " I nodded. " It has always been 
human to admire and respect that only which is in any 
way different to ourselves ; in archaic times those whose 
teachings were above men's comprehension, or who were 
remarkable for any singularity of action were immedi- 
ately deified. Pythagoras recognized this truth when he 
shrouded himself in mystery and delivered his lectures from 
behind a curtain, though to be sure he has come to be re- 
garded as something of a charlatan in consequence." 

" Pray, sir," said the Preacher, absent-mindedly puffing 
at his pipe again, " may I ask what you are ? " 

" A blacksmith, sir." 

" And where did you read of Pythagoras and the like? " 

" At Oxford, sir." 

" How comes it then that I find you in the dawn, wet 
with rain, buffeted by wind,, and — most of all — a shoer 
of horses ? " 

But, instead of answering, I pointed to a twisted figure 
that lay beneath the opposite hedge. 

" A man ! " exclaimed the Preacher, " and asleep, I 
think." 

" No," said I, " not in that contorted attitude." 

" Indeed, you are right," said the Preacher ; " the man 
is ill — poor fellow ! " And, hurrying forward, he fell 
on his knees beside the prostrate figure. 

He was a tall man, roughly clad, and he lay upon his 
back, rigid and motionless, while upon his blue lips were 
flecks and bubbles of foam. 

"Epilepsy!" said I. The Preacher nodded and busied 
himself with loosening the sodden neckcloth, the while I 
unclasped the icy fingers to relieve the tension of the 
muscles* 



The Epileptic 393 

The man's hair was long and matted, as was also his 
beard, and his face all drawn and pale, and very deeply 
lined. Now, as I looked at him, I had a vague idea that I 
had somewhere, at some time, seen him before. 

" Sir," said the Preacher, looking up, " will you help 
me to carry him to my cottage? It is not very far." 

So we presently took the man's wasted form between us 
and bore it, easily enough, to where stood a small cottage 
bowered in roses and honeysuckle. And, having deposited 
our unconscious burden upon the Preacher's humble bed, 
I turned to depart. 

" Sir," said the Preacher, holding out his hand, " it is 
seldom one meets with a blacksmith who has read the 
Pythagorean Philosophy — at Oxford, and I should like 
to see you again. I am a lonely man save for my books; 
come and sup with me some evening, and let us talk — " 

" And smoke ? " said I. The little Preacher sighed. 
" I will come," said I ; " thank you ! and good-by ! " Now, 
even as I spoke, chancing to cast my eyes upon the pale, 
still face on the bed, I felt more certain than ever that I 
had somewhere seen it before. 



CHAPTER XXVIH 

IN WHICH I COME TO A DETERMINATION 

As I walked through the fresh, green world there ensued 
within me the following dispute, as it were, between myself 
and two voices ; and the first voice I will call Pro, and the 
other Contra. 

Myself. May the devil take that " Gabbing Dick " ! 

Pro. He probably will. 

Myself. Had he not told me of what he saw — of the 
man who looked at my Virgil — over her shoulder — 

Pro. Or had you not listened. 

Myself. Ah, yes ! — but then, I did listen, and that he 
spoke the truth is beyond all doubt; the misplaced Virgil 
proves that. However, it is certain, yes, very certain, that 
I can remain no longer in the Hollow. 

Contra. Well, there is excellent accommodation at 
" The Bull." 

Pro. And, pray, why leave the Hollow? 

Myself. Because she is a woman — 

Pro. And you love her! 

Myself. To my sorrow. 

Pro. Well, but woman was made for man, Peter, and 
man for woman — ! 

Myself ( sternly) . Enough of that — I must go ! 

Pro. Being full of bitter jealousy. 

Myself. No ! 

Pro. Being a mad, jealous fool — » 

Myself. As you will. 

Pro. — who has condemned her unheard — with no 
chance of justification. 



I Come to a Determination 395 

Myself. To-morrow, at the very latest, I shall seek 
some other habitation. 

Pro. Has she the look of guilt? 

Myself. No ; but then women are deceitful by nature, 
and very skilful in disguising their faults — at least so 
I have read in my books — 

Pro (contemptuously). Books! Books! Books! 

Myself (shortly). No matter; I have decided. 

Pro. Do you remember how willingly she worked for 
you with those slender, capable hands of hers — ? 

Myself. Why remind me of this? 

Pro. You must needs miss her presence sorely; her 
footstep, that was always so quick arid light — 

Myself. Truly wonderful in one so nobly formed ! 

Pro. — and the way she had of singing softly to herself. 

Myself. A beautiful voice — 

Pro. With a caress in it ! And then, her habit of look- 
ing at you over her shoulder. 

Myself. Ah, yes ! — her lashes a little drooping, her 
brows a little wrinkled, her lips a little parted. 

Contra. A comfortable inn is " The Bull." 

Myself (hastily). Yes, yes — certainly. 

Pro. Ah ! — her lips — the scarlet witchery of her 
lips ! Do you remember how sweetly the lower one curved 
upward to its fellow? A mutinous mouth, with its sudden, 
bewildering changes! You never quite knew which to 
watch of tenest — her eyes or her lips — 

Contra (hoarsely). Excellent cooking at " The Bull " ! 

Pro. And how she would berate you and scoff at your 
Master Epictetus, and dry-as-dust philosophers ! " 

Myself. I have sometimes wondered at her pronounced 
antipathy to Epictetus. 

Pro. And she called you a " creature." 

Myself. The meaning of which I never quite fathomed. 

Pro. And, frequently, a " pedant." 

Myself. I think not more than four times. 

Pro. On such occasions, you will remember, she had a 
petulant way of twitching her shoulder towards you and 



396 The Broad Highway 

frowning, and, occasionally, stamping her foot ; and, deep 
within you, you loved it all, you know you did. 

Contra. But that is all over, and you are going to 
" The Bull." 

Myself (hurriedly). To be sure — "The Bull." 

Pro. And, lastly, you cannot have forgotten — you 
never will forget — the soft tumult of the tender bosom 
that pillowed your battered head — the pity of her hands 
— those great, scalding tears, the sudden, swift caress of 
her lips, and the thrill in her voice when she said — 

Myself (hastily). Stop! that is all forgotten. 

Pro. You lie! You have dreamed of it ever since, 
working at your anvil, or lying upon your bed, with your 
eyes upon the stars ; you have loved her from the begin- 
ning of things ! 

Myself. And I did not know it ; I was very blind. The 
wonder is that she did not discover my love for her long 
ago, for, not knowing it was there, how should I try to 
hide it? 

Contra. O Blind, and more than blind! Why should 
you suppose she has n't ? 

Myself (stopping short). What? Can it be possible 
that she has? 

Contra. Did n't she once say that she could read you 
like a book? 

Myself. She did. 

Contra. And have you not often surprised a smile 
upon her lips, and wondered? 

Myself. Many times. 

Contra. Have you not beheld a thin-veiled mockery in 
her look? Why, poor fool, has she not mocked you from 
the first? You dream of her lips. Were not their smiles 
but coquetry and derision? 

Myself. But why should she deride me? 

Contra. For your youth and — innocence. 

Myself. My youth! my innocence! 

Contra. Being a fool ingrain, did n't you boast that 
you had known but few women? 



I Come to a Determination 397 

Myself. I did, but — 

Contra. Did n't she call you boy ! boy ! boy ! — and 
laugh at you? 

Myself. Well - — even so — 

Contra (with bitter scorn). O Boy! O Innocent of 
the innocent! Go to, for a bookish fool! Learn that 
lovely ladies yield themselves but to those who are master- 
ful in their wooing, who have wooed often, and triumphed 
as often. O Innocent of the innocent ! Forget the maud- 
lin sentiment of thy books and old romances — thy pure 
Sir Galahads, thy " vary parfait gen til knightes," thy 
meek and lowly lovers serving their ladies on bended knee ; 
open thine eyes, learn that women to-day love only the 
strong hand, the bold eye, the ready tongue ; kneel to her, 
and she will scorn and contemn you. What woman, think 
you, would prefer the solemn, stern-eyed purity of a Sir 
Galahad (though he be the king of men) to the quick- 
witted ga} r ety of a debonair Lothario (though he be but 
the shadow of a man) ? Out upon thee, pale-faced student ! 
Thy tongue hath not the trick, nor thy mind the nimble- 
ness for the winning of a fair and lovely lady. Thou 'rt 
well enough in want of a better, but, when Lothario comes, 
must she not run to meet him with arms outstretched? 

" To-morrow," said I, clenching my fists, " to-morrow I 
will go away ! " 

Being now come to the Hollow, I turned aside to the 
brook, at that place where was the pool in which I was 
wont to perform my morning ablutions; and, kneeling 
down, I gazed at myself in the dark, still water; and I 
saw that the night had, indeed, set its mark upon me. 

" To-morrow," said I again, nodding to the wild face 
below, "to-morrow I will go far hence." 

Now while I yet gazed at myself, I heard a sudden gasp 
behind me and, turning, beheld Charmian. 

" Peter! is it you? " she whispered, drawing back from 
me. 

"Who else, Charmian? Did I startle you? " 



398 The Broad Highway 

"Yes — oh, Peter!" 
" Are you afraid of me ? " 

" You are like one who has walked with — death ! " 
I rose to my feet, and stood looking down at her. 
" Are you afraid of me, Charmian ? " 
" No, Peter." 

" I am glad of that," said I, " because I want to ask 
you — to marry me, Charmian." 



CHAPTER XXIX 

in which charmian answers my question 

" Peter ! " 

"Yes?" 

" I wish you would n't." 

" Would n't what, Chairman? " 

" Stir your tea round and round and round — it is 
really most — exasperating ! " 

" I beg your pardon ! " said I humbly. 

" And you eat nothing ; and that is also exasperating ! " 

" I am not hungry." 

" And I was so careful with the bacon — see it is fried 
— beautifully — yes, you are very exasperating, Peter ! " 

Here, finding I was absent-mindedly stirring my tea 
round and round again, I gulped it down out of the way, 
whereupon Charmian took my cup and refilled it; having 
done which, she set her elbows upon the table, and, prop- 
ping her chin in her hands, looked at me. 

" You climbed out through your window last night, 
Peter?" 

" Yes." 

" It must have been a — dreadfully tight squeeze ! " 

"Yes." 

" And why did you go by the window? " 

" I did not wish to disturb you." 

" That was very thoughtful of you — only, you see, I 
was up and dressed; the roar of the thunder woke me. 
It was a dreadful storm, Peter ! " 

" Yes." 

" The lightning was awful ! " 



400 The Broad Highway 

" Yes." 

" And you were out in it ? " 

" Yes." 

" Oh, you poor, poor Peter ! How cold you must have 
been!" 

" On the contrary," I began, "I — " 

" And wet, Peter — miserably wet and clammy ! " 

" I did not notice it," I murmured. 

" Being a philosopher, Peter, and too much engrossed 
in your thoughts? " 

" I was certainly thinking." 

"Of yourself!" 

« Yes — " 

"You are a great egoist, aren't you, Peter?" 

" Am I, Charmian? " 

" Who but an egoist could stand with his mind so full 
of himself and his own concerns as to be oblivious to 
thunder and lightning, and not know that he is miserably 
clammy and wet? " 

" I thought of others besides myself." 

" But only in connection with yourself ; everything you 
have ever read or seen you apply to yourself, to make that 
self more worthy in Mr. Vibart's eyes. Is this worthy of 
Peter Vibart? Can Peter Vibart do this, that, or the other, 
and still retain the respect of Peter Vibart? Then why, 
being in all things so very correct and precise, why is 
Peter Vibart given to prowling abroad at midnight, quite 
oblivious to thunder, lightning, wet and clamminess? I 
answer: Because Peter Vibart is too much engrossed by 
■ — Peter Vibart. There ! that sounds rather cryptic and 
very full of Peter Vibart; but that is as it should be," 
and she laughed. 

" And what does it mean, Charmian ? " 

" Good sir, the sibyl hath spoken ! Find her meaning 
for yourself." 

" You have called me, on various occasions, a c creature,' 
a * pedant ' — very frequently a c pedant,' and now, it 
seems I am an ' egoist,' and all because — " 



Charmian Answers my Question 401 

"Because you think too much, Peter; you never open 
your lips without having first thought out just what you 
are going to say ; you never do anything without having 
laboriously mapped it all out beforehand, that you may 
not outrage Peter Vibart's tranquillity by any impulsive 
act or speech. Oh ! you are always thinking and thinking 
— and that is even worse than stirring, and stirring at 
your tea, as you are doing now." I took the spoon 
hastily from my cup, and laid it as far out of reach as 
possible. " If ever you should write the book you once 
spoke of, it would be just the very sort of book that I 
should — hate." 

"Why, Charmian?" 

" Because it would be a book of artfully, turned phrases ; 
a book in which all the characters, especially women, would 
think and speak and act by rote and rule — as according 
to Mr. Peter Vibart; it would be a scholarly book, of 
elaborate finish and care of detail, with no irregularities 
of style or anything else to break the monotonous har- 
mony of the whole — indeed, sir, it would be a most un- 
readable book ! " 

"Do you think so, Charmian? " said I, once more tak- 
ing up the teaspoon. 

" Why, of course ! " she answered, with raised brows ; 
" it would probably be full of Greek and Latin quotations ! 
And you would polish and rewrite it until you had polished 
every vestige of life and spontaneity out of it, as you do 
out of yourself, with your thinking and thinking." 

" But I never quote you Greek or Latin ; that is surely 
something, and, as for thinking, would you have me a 
thoughtless fool or an impulsive ass ? " 

" Anything rather than a calculating, introspective 
philosopher, seeing only the mote in the sunbeam, and 
nothing of the glory." Here she gently disengaged the 
teaspoon from my fingers and laid it in her own saucer, 
having done which she sighed, and looked at me with her 
head to one side. " Were they all like you, Peter, I won- 
der — those old philosophers, grim and stern, and terribly 



402 The Broad Highway 

repressed, with burning eyes, Peter, and with very long 
chins ? Epictetus was, of course ! " 

" And you dislike Epictetus, Charmian ? " 

" I detest him! He was just the kind of person, Peter, 
who, being unable to sleep, would have wandered out into 
a terrible thunderstorm, in the middle of the night, and, 
being cold and wet and clammy, Peter, would have drawn 
moral lessons, and made epigrams upon the thunder and 
lightning. Epictetus, I am quite sure, was a — person ! " 

" He was one of the wisest, gentlest, and most lovable 
of all the Stoics ! " said I. 

" Can a philosopher possibly be lovable, Peter? " Here 
I very absent-mindedly took up a fork, but, finding her 
eye upon me, laid it down again. 

" You are very nervous, Peter, and verj^ pale and worn 
and haggard, and all because you habitually — overthink 
yourself; and indeed, there is something very far wrong 
with a man who perseveringly stirs an empty cup — with 
a fork ! " And, with a laugh, she took my cup and, hav- 
ing once more refilled it, set it before me. 

" And yet, Peter — I don't think — no, I don't think 
I would have you very much changed, after all." 

" You mean that you would rather I remained the 
pedantic, egotistical creature — " 

" I mean, Peter, that, being a woman, I naturally love 
novelty, and you are very novel — and very interesting." 

" Thank you ! " said I, frowning. 

" And more contradictory than any woman ! " 

" Hum !" said I. 

" You are so strong and simple — so wise and brave 
— and so very weak and foolish and timid'! " 

"Timid?" saidl. 

"Timid! "nodded she. 

" I am a vast fool ! " I acknowledged. 

" And I never knew a man anything like you before, 
Peter!" 

" And you have known many, I understand? " 

" Very many." 



Charmian Answers my Question 403 

" Yes — you told me so once before, I believe." 

" Twice, Peter ; and each time you became very silent 
and gloomy ! Now you, on the other hand," she continued, 
" have known very few women ? " 

" And my life has been calm and unruffled in conse- 
quence ! " 

" You had your books, Peter, and your horseshoes." 

" My books and horseshoes, yes." 

" And were content? " 

" Quite content." 

" Until, one day — a woman — came to you." 

" Until, one day — I met a woman." 

"And then — ?" 

" And then — I asked her to marry me, Charmian." 
Here there ensued a pause, during which Charmian began 
to pleat a fold in the tablecloth. 

" That was rather — unwise of you, was n't it ? " said 
she at last. 

" How unwise ? " 

" Because — she might — have taken you at your word, 
Peter." 

" Do you mean that — that you won't, Charmian? " 

" Oh dear, no ! I have arrived at no decision yet — 
how could I? You must give me time to consider." Here 
she paused in her pleating to regard it critically, with 
her head on one side. " To be sure," said she, with a 
little nod, " to be sure, you need some one to — to look 
after you — that is very evident ! " 

" Yes." 

" To cook — and wash for you." 

" Yes." 

" To mend your clothes for you." 

"Yes." 

" And you think me — sufficiently competent? " 

" Oh, Charmian, I — yes." 

" Thank you ! " said she, very solemnly, and, though 
her lashes had drooped, I felt the mockery of her eyes; 
wherefore I took a sudden great gulp of tea, and came 



404 The Broad Highway 

near choking, while Charmian began to pleat another fold 
in the tablecloth. 

" And so Mr. Vibart would stoop to wed so humble a 
person as Charmian Brown? Mr. Peter Vibart would, act- 
ually, marry a woman of whose past he knows nothing? " 

" Yes," said I. 

" That, again, would be rather — unwise, would n't it? " 

"Why?" 

" Considering Mr. Vibart's very lofty ideals in regard 
to women." 

" What do you mean ? " 

" Did n't you once say that your wife's name must be 
above suspicion — like Caesar's — or something of the 
kind?" 

" Did I? — yes, perhaps I did — well? " 

" Well, this woman — this Humble Person has no name 
at all, and no shred of reputation left her. She has com- 
promised herself beyond all redemption in the eyes of the 
world." 

" But then," said I, " this world and I have always 
mutually despised each other." 

" She ran away, this woman — eloped with the most 
notorious, the most accomplished rake in London." 

"Well?" 

" Oh ! — is not that enough? " 

" Enough for what, Charmian ? " I saw her busy fingers 
falter and tremble, but her voice was steady when she 
answered : 

" Enough to make any — wise man think twice before 
asking this Humble Person to — to marry him." 

" I might think twenty times, and it would be all one ! " 

"You — mean — ?" 

" That if Charmian Brown will stoop to marry a village 
blacksmith, Peter Vibart will find happiness again; a 
happiness that is not of the sunshine — nor the wind in 
the trees — Lord, what a fool I was!" Her fingers had 
stopped altogether now, but she neither spoke nor raised 
her head. 



Charmian Answers my Question 405 

" Charmian," said I, leaning nearer across the table, 
" speak." 

" Oh, Peter ! " said she, with a sudden break in her 
voice, and stooped her head lower. Yet in a little she 
looked up at me, and her eyes were very sweet and shining. 

Now, as our glances met thus, up from throat to brow 
there crept that hot, slow wave of color, and in her face 
and in her eyes I seemed to read joy, and fear, and shame, 
and radiant joy again. But now she bent her head once 
more, and strove to pleat another fold, and could not; 
while I grew suddenly afraid of her and of nryself, and 
longed to hurl aside the table that divided us ; and thrust 
my hands deep into my pockets, and, finding there my 
tobacco-pipe, brought it out and fell to turning it aim- 
lessly over and over. I would have spoken, only I knew 
that my voice would tremble, and so I sat mum-chance, 
staring at my pipe with unseeing eyes, and with my brain 
in a ferment. And presently came her voice, cool and 
sweet and sane: 

" Your tobacco, Peter," and she held the box towards 
me across the table. 

" Ah, thank you ! " said I, and began to fill my pipe, 
while she watched me with her chin propped in her hands. 

"Peter!" 

"Yes, Charmian?" 

" I wonder why so grave a person as Mr. Peter Vibart 
should seek to marry so impossible a creature as — the 
Humble Person? " 

" I think," I answered, " I think, if there is any special 
reason, it is because of — your mouth." 

"My mouth?" 

" Or your eyes — or the way you have with your 
lashes." 

Charmian laughed, and forthwith drooped them at me, 
and laughed again, and shook her head. 

" But surely, Peter, surely there are thousands, mil- 
lions of women with mouths and eyes like — the Humble 
Person's ? " 



4-o6 The Broad Highway 

" It is possible," said I, " but none who hare the same 
way with their lashes." 

" What do you mean? " 

" I can't tell; I don't know." 

"Don't you, Peter?" 

" No — it is just a way." 

" And so it is that you want to marry this very Humble 
Person? " 

" I think I have wanted to from the very first, but did 
not know it — being a blind fool ! " 

" And — did it need a night walk in a thunderstorm to 
teach you ? " 

" No — that is, yes — perhaps it did." 

" And — are you quite, quite sure? " 

" Quite — quite sure ! " said I, and, as I spoke, I laid 
my pipe upon the table and rose; and, because my hands 
were trembling, I clenched my fists. But, as I approached 
her, she started up and put out a hand to hold me off, and 
then I saw that her hands were trembling also. And stand- 
ing thus, she spoke, very softly: 

"Peter." 

"Yes, Charmian?" 

" Do you remember describing to me the — the perfect 
woman who should be your — wife? " 

" Yes." 

" How that you must be able to respect her for her 
intellect? " 

" Yes." 

" Honor her for her virtue ? " 

" Yes, Charmian." 

" And worship her — for her — spotless purity? " 

" I dreamed a paragon — perfect and impossible ; I was 
a fool ! " said I. 

" Impossible ! Oh, Peter ! what — what do you mean? " 

" She was only an impalpable shade quite impossible of 
realization — a bloodless thing, as you said, and quite 
unnatural — a sickly figment of the imagination. I was 
a fool!" 



Charmian Answers my Question 407 

" And you are — too wise now, to expect — such virtues 
— in any woman ? " 

" Yes," said I ; "no — oh, Charmian ! I only know 
that you have taken this phantom's place — that you fill 
all my thoughts — sleeping, and waking — " 

" No ! No ! " she cried, and struggled in my arms, so 
that I caught her hands, and held them close, and kissed 
them many times. 

" Oh, Charmian ! Charmian ! — don't you know — can't 
you see — it is you I want — you, and only you forever ; 
whatever you were — whatever you are — I love you — 
love you, and always must ! Marry me, Charmian ! — 
marry me ! and you shall be dearer than my life — more to 
me than my soul — " But, as I spoke, her hands were 
snatched away, her eyes blazed into mine, and her lips were 
all bitter scorn, and at the sight, fear came upon me. 

" Marry you ! " she panted ; " marry you? — no and no 
and no ! " And so she stamped her foot, and sobbed, and 
turning, fled from me, out of the cottage. 

And now to fear came wonder, and with wonder was 
despair. 

Truly, was ever man so great a fool ! 



CHAPTER XXX 

CONCERNING THE FATE OF BLACK GEORGE 

A broad, white road; on either hand some half-dozen cot- 
tages with roofs of thatch or red tile, backed by trees 
gnarled and ancient, among which rises the red conical 
roof of some oast-house. Such, in a word, is Sissinghurst. 

Now, upon the left-hand side of the way, there stands a 
square, comfortable, whitewashed building, peaked of roof, 
bright as to windows, and with a mighty sign before the 
door, whereon you shall behold the picture of a bull: a 
bull rolling of eye, astonishingly curly of horn and stiff 
as to tail, and with a prodigious girth of neck and shoul- 
der; such a snorting, fiery-eyed, curly-horned bull as was 
never seen off an inn-sign. 

It was at this bull that I was staring with much appar- 
ent interest, though indeed, had that same curly-horned 
monstrosity been changed by some enchanter's wand into 
a green dragon or griffin, or swan with two necks, the 
chances are that I should have continued sublimely uncon- 
scious of the transformation. 

Yet how should honest Silas Hoskins, ostler, and gen- 
eral factotum of " The Bull " inn, be aware of this fact, 
who, being thus early at work, and seeing me lost in con- 
templation, paused to address me in all good faith? 

" A fine bull 'e be, eh, Peter ? Look at them 'orns, an' 
that theer tail ; it 's seldom as you sees 'orns or a tail the 
like o' them, eh? " 

" Very seldom ! " I answered, and sighed. 

"An' then — 'is nose-'oles, Peter, jest cast your eye 
on them nose-'oles, will ye ; why, dang me ! if I can't 'ear 



The Fate of Black George 409 

'im a-snortin' when I looks at 'em ! An' 'e were all painted 
by a chap — a little old chap wi' gray whiskers — no 
taller 'n your elber, Peter ! Think o' that — a little chap 
no taller 'n your elber ! I seen 'im do it wi' my two eyes 
— a-sittin' on a box. Drored t' bull in wi' a bit o' chalk, 
first ; then 'e outs wi' a couple o' brushes ; dab 'e goes, an' 
dab, dab again, an' — by Goles ! theer was a pair o' eyes 
a-rollin' theirselves at me — just a pair o' eyes, Peter. 
Ah! 'e were a wonder were that little old chap wi' gray 
whiskers ! The way 'e went at that theer bull, a-dabbin' at 
'im 'ere, an' a-dabbin' at 'im theer tfill 'e come to 'is tail — 
'e done 'is tail last of all, Peter. ' Give un a good tail ! ' 
says I. ' Ah ! that I will,' says 'e. ' An' a good stiff un ! ' 
says I. ' Ye jest keep your eye on it, an' watch! ' says 'e. 
Talk about tails, Peter ! 'E put in that theer tail so quick 
as nigh made my eyes water, an' — as for stiffness — well, 
look at it ! I tell 'ee that chap could paint a bull wi' 'is eyes 
shut, ah, that 'e could! an' 'im such a very small man * — 
wi' gray whiskers. No, ye don't see many bulls like that 
un theer, I 'm thinkin', Peter? " 

" They would be very hard to find ! " said I, and sighed 
again. Whereupon Silas sighed, for company's sake, and 
nodding, went off about his many duties, whistlmg 
cheerily. 

So I presently turned about and crossed the road to the 
smithy. But upon the threshold I stopped all at once and 
drew softly back, for, despite the early hour, Prudence 
was there, upon her knees before the anvil, with George's 
great hand-hammer clasped to her bosom, sobbing over it, 
and, while she sobbed, she kissed its worn handle. And 
because such love was sacred and hallowed that dingy 
place, I took off my hat as I once more crossed the road. 

Seeing " The Bull " was not yet astir, for the day was 
still young (as I say), I sat me down in the porch and 
sighed. 

And after I had sat there for some while, with my chin 
sunk upon my breast, and plunged in bitter meditation, 
I became aware of the door opening, and next moment a 



41 o The Broad Highway 

tremulous hand was laid upon my head, and, looking round, 
I beheld the Ancient. 

" Bless 5 ee, Peter — bless 'ee, lad ! — an' a old man's 
blessin' be no light thing — 'specially such a old, old man 
as I be — an' it bean't often as I feels in a blessin' sperr-it 
— but oh, Peter ! 't were me as found ye, were n't it ? " 

" Why, to be sure it was, Ancient, very nearly five 
months ago." 

" An' I be alius ready wi' some noos for ye, bean't I? " 

"Yes, indeed!" 

" Well, I got more noos for 'ee, Peter — gert noos ! " 

" And what is it this time ? " 

*' I be alius full up o' noos, bean't I ? " he repeated. 

" Yes, Ancient," said I, and sighed ; " and what is your 
news ? " 

" Why, first of all, Peter, jest reach me my snuff-box, 
will 'ee ? — 'ere it be — in my back 'ind pocket — thankee ! 
thankee ! " Hereupon he knocked upon the lid with a bony 
knuckle. " I du be that full o' noos this marnin' that my 
innards be all of a quake, Peter, all of a quake ! " he 
nodded, saying which, he sat down close beside me. 

" Peter." 

"Yes, Ancient?" 

" Some day — when that theer old stapil be all rusted 
away, an' these old bones is a-restin' in the churchyard — 
over to Cranbrook, Peter — you '11 think, sometimes, o* 
the very old man as was always so full o' noos, won't 'ee, 
Peter?" 

" Surely, Ancient, I shall never forget you," said I, 
and sighed. 

" An' now, Peter," said the old man, extracting a pinch 
of snuff, " now for the noos — 'bout Black Jarge, it be." 

"What of him, Ancient?" The old man shook his 
head. 

" It took eight on 'em to du it, Peter, an' now four on 
'em 's a-layin' in their beds, an' four on 'em 's 'obblin' on 
crutches — an' all over a couple o' rabbits — though theer 
be some fules as says they was pa'tridges ! " 



The Fate of Black George 41 1 

" Why — what do you mean ? " 

" Why, ye see, Peter, Black Jarge be such a gert, strong 
man (I were much such another when I were young) — 
like a lion, in 'is wrath, 'e be — ah ! — a bull bean't nothin' 
to Black Jarge! An' they keepers come an' found 'im 
under a tree, fast asleep — like David in the Cave of Adul- 
lam, Peter, wi' a couple o' rabbits as 'e 'd snared. An' when 
they keepers tried to tak' 'im, 'e rose up, 'e did, an' throwed 
some on 'em this way an' some on 'em that way — 't were 
like Samson an' the Philistines ; if only 'e 'd 'appened to 
find the jaw-bone of a ass lyin' 'andy, 'e 'd ha' killed 'em 
all an' got away, sure as sure. But it were n't to be, Peter, 
no; dead donkeys be scarce nowadays, an' as for asses' 
jaw-bones — " 

" Do you mean that George is taken — a prisoner ? " 

The Ancient nodded, and inhaled his pinch of snuff with 
much evident relish. 

" It be gert noos, bean't it, Peter? " 

" What have they done with him ? Where is he, An- 
cient? " But, before the old man could answer, Simon 
appeared. 

" Ah, Peter ! " said he, shaking his head, " the Gaffer 's 
been tellin' ye 'ow they 've took Jarge for poachin', I 
suppose — " 

" Simon ! " cried the Ancient, " shut thy mouth, lad — 
hold thy gab an' give thy poor old feyther a chance — I 
be tellin' 'im so fast as I can ! As I was a-sayin', Peter — 
like a f ur'us lion were Jarge wi' they keepers — eight on 
'em, Peter — like dogs, a-growlin' an' growlin', an' leapin', 
and worryin' all round 'im — ah ! — like a lion 'e were — " 

i% Waitin' for a chance to use 'is ' right,' d' ye see y 
Peter ! " added Simon. 

Ancient. Wi' 'is eyes a-rollin' an' flamin', Peter, an y 
'is mane all bristlin' — 

Simon. Cool as any cucumber, Peter — 

Ancient. A-roarin' an' a-lashin' of 'is tail — 

Simon. And sparrin' for an openin', Peter, and when 
'e sees one — downin' 'is man every time — 



412 The Broad Highway 

Ancient. Leapin' in the air, rollin' in the grass, wi' 
they keepers clingin' to 'im like leeches — ah ! leeches — 

Simon. And every time they rushed, tap 'ud go 'is 
" left," and bang 'ud go 'is " right " — 

Ancient. An' up 'e 'd get, like Samson again, Peter, 
an' give 'isself a shake ; bellerin' — like a bull o' Bashan — 

Simon. Ye see, they fou't so close together that the 
keepers was afear'd to use their guns — 

Ancient (indignantly). Guns! — who's a-talkin' o' 
guns ? Simon, my bye — you be alius a-maggin' an' 
a-maggin' ; bridle thy tongue, lad, bridle thy tongue afore 
it runs away wi' ye. 

Simon (sheepishly). All right, Old Un — fire away! 

But, at this juncture, Old Amos hove in view, followed 
by the Apologetic Dutton, with Job and sundry others, on 
their way to work, and, as they came, they talked to- 
gether, with much solemn wagging of heads. Having 
reached the door of " The Bull," they paused and greeted 
us, and I thought Old Amos's habitual grin seemed a trifle 
more pronounced than usual. 

" So poor Jarge 'as been an' gone an' done for 'isself 
at last, eh? Oh, my soul! think o' that, now!" sighed 
Old Amos. 

" Alius knowed as 'e would ! " added Job ; " many 's the 
time I 've said as 'e would, an' you know it — all on you." 

" It '11 be the Barbadies, or Austrayley ! " grinned 
Amos ; " transportation, it '11 be — Oh, my soul ! think o' 
that now — an' 'im a Siss'n'urst man ! " 

" An' all along o' a couple o' — rabbits ! " said the 
Ancient, emphasizing the last word with a loud rap on his 
snuff-box. 

" Pa'tridges, Gaffer ! — they was pa'tridges ! " returned 
Old Amos. 

" I alius said as Black Jarge 'd come to a bad end," re- 
iterated Job, " an' what 's more — 'e are n't got nobody 
to blame but 'isself! " 

" An' all for a couple o' — rabbits ! " sighed the An- 
cient, staring Old Amos full in the eye. 



The Fate of Black George 413 

" Pa'tridges, Gaffer, they was pa'tridges — you, James 
Dutton — was they pa'tridges or was they not — speak 
up, James." 

Hereupon the man Dutton, all perspiring apology, as 
usual, shuffled forward, and, mopping his reeking brow, 
delivered himself in this wise : 

" W'ich I must say -*— meanin' no offence to nobody, an' 
if so be, apologizin' — w'ich I must say — me 'avin' seen 
'em — they was — leastways," he added, as he met the 
Ancient's piercing eye, " leastways -*— they might 'ave 
been, w'ich — if they ain't — no matter ! " 

Having said which, he apologetically smeared his face all 
over with his shirt-sleeve, and subsided again. 

"It do wring my 'eart — ah, that it do ! to think o' 
pore Jarge a convic' at Bot'ny Bay ! " said Old Amos, 
" a-workin', an' diggin', an' slavin' wi' irons on 'is legs an' 
arms, a-jinglin', an' a-janglin' when 'e walks." 

" Well, but it 's Justice, are n't it ? " demanded Job — 
" a poacher 's a thief, an' a thief 's a convic' — or should 
be!" 

a I 've 'eerd," said Old Amos, shaking his head, " I 've 
'eerd as they ties they convic's up to posts, an' lashes an' 
lashes 'em wi' the cat-o'-nine-tails ! " 

" They generally mostly deserves it ! " nodded Job. 

" But 't is 'ard to think o' pore Jarge tied up to one o' 
them floggin'-posts, wi' 'is back all raw an' bleedin' ! " pur- 
sued Old Amos ; " crool 'ard it be, an' 'im such a fine, 
strappin' young chap." 

" 'E were alius a sight too fond o' pitchin' into folk, 
Jarge were ! " said Job ; " it be a mercy as my back 
were n't broke more nor once." 

" Ah ! " nodded the Ancient, " you must be amazin' 
strong in the back, Job ! The way I 've seed 'ee come 
a-rollin' an' a-wallerin' out o' that theer smithy 's wonner- 
ful, wonnerf ul. Lord ! Job — 'ow you did roll ! " 

" Well, 'e won't never do it no more," said Job, glower- 
ing ; " what wi' poachin' 'is game, an' knockin' 'is keepers 
about, 't are n't likely as Squire Beverley '11 let 'im off very 
easy — " 



414 The Broad Highway 

" Who? " said I, looking up, and speaking for the first 
time. 

" Squire Beverley o' Burn'am 'All." 

" Sir Peregrine Beverley? " 

" Ay, for sure." 

" And how far is it to Burnham Hall? " 

" 'Ow fur ? " repeated Job, staring ; " why, it lays 
't other side o' Horsmonden — " 

" It be a matter o' eight mile, Peter," said the Ancient. 

" Nine, Peter ! " cried old Amos — " nine mile, it be ! " 

" Though I won't swear, Peter," continued the Ancient, 
" I won't swear as it are n't — seven — call it six an' 
three quarters ! " said he, with his eagle eye on Old Amos. 

" Then I had better start now," said I, and rose. 

" Why, Peter — wheer be goin' ? " 

" To Burnham Hall, Ancient." 

" What — you? " exclaimed Job ; " d' ye think Squire '11 
see you? " 

" I think so ; yes." 

" Well, 'e won't — they '11 never let the likes o' you or 
me beyond the gates." 

" That remains to be seen," said I. 

" So you 'm goin', are ye? " 

" I certainly am." 

" All right ! " nodded Job, " if they sets the dogs on ye, 
or chucks you into the road — don't go blamin' it on to 
me, that's all!" 

" What — be ye really a-goin', Peter? " 

" I really am, Ancient." 

" Then — by the Lord ! — I '11 go wi' ye." 

"It's along walk!" 

" Nay — Simon shall drive us in the cart." 

" That I will! " nodded the Innkeeper. 

" Ay, lad," cried the Ancient, laying his hand upon my 
arm, " we '11 up an' see Squire, you an' me — shall us, 
Peter? There be some fules," said he, looking round upon 
the staring company, " some fules as talks o' Bot'ny Bay, 
an' irons, an' whippin'-posts — all I says is — let 'em, 



The Fate of Black George 415 

Peter, let 'em! You an' me '11 up an' see Squire, Peter, 
sha'n't us? Black Jarge aren't a convic' yet, let fules 
say what they will; we'll show 'em, Peter, we'll show 
'em!" So saying, the old man led me into the kitchen 
of "The Bull," while Simon went to have the horses 
put to. 



CHAPTER XXXI 

IN WHICH THE ANCIENT IS SURPRISED 

A cheery place, at all times, is the kitchen of an English 
inn, a comfortable place to eat in, to talk in, or to daze 
in; a place with which your parlors and withdrawing- 
rooms, your salons (a la the three Louis) with their irri- 
tating rococo, their gilt and satin, and spindle-legged 
discomforts, are not (to my mind) worthy to compare. 

And what inn kitchen, in all broad England, was ever 
brighter, neater, and more comfortable than this kitchen 
of " The Bull," where sweet Prue held supreme sway, with 
such grave dignity, and with her two white-capped maids 
to do her bidding and behests ? — surely none. And surely 
in no inn, tavern, or hostelry soever, great or small, was 
there ever seen a daintier, prettier, sweeter hostess than 
this same Prue of ours. 

And her presence was reflected everywhere, and, if ever 
the kitchen of an inn possessed a heart to lose, then, be- 
yond all doubt, this kitchen had lost its heart to Prue long 
since ; even the battered cutlasses crossed upon the wall, 
the ponderous jack above the hearth, with its legend: anno 
domini 1643, took on a brighter sheen to greet her when 
she came, and as for the pots and pans, they fairly twinkled. 

But today Prue's eyes were red, and her lips were all 
a-droop, the which, though her smile was brave and ready, 
the Ancient was quick to notice. 

" Why, Prue, lass, you 've been weepin' ! " 

" Yes, grandfer." 

" Your pretty eyes be all swole — red they be ; what 's 
the trouble?" 



The Ancient is Surprised 417 

"Oh! 'tis nothing, dear, 'tis just a maid's fulishness 
— never mind me, dear." 

" Ah ! but I love 'ee, Prue — come, kiss me — theer now,, 
tell me all about it — all about it, Prue." 

" Oh, grandfer ! " said she, from the hollow of his shoul- 
der, " 't is just — Jarge ! " The old man grew very still,, 
his mouth opened slowly, and closed with a snap. 

" Did 'ee — did 'ee say — Jarge, Prue ? Is it — breekin' 
your 'eart ye be for that theer poachin' Black Jarge? 
To think — as my Prue should come down to a 
poachin' — " 

Prudence slipped from his encircling arm and stood 
up very straight and proud — there were tears thick upon 
her lashes, but she did not attempt to wipe them away. 

" Grandfer," she said very gently, " you must n't speak 
of Jarge to me like that — ye must n't — ye must n't — 
because I — love him, and if — he ever — comes back — 
I '11 marry him if — if he will only ax me ; and if he 
— - never comes back, then — I think — I shall — die ! " 
The Ancient took out his snuff-box, knocked it, opened it 9 
glanced inside, and — shut it up again. 

" Did 'ee tell me as you — love — Black Jarge, Prue ? " 

" Yes, grandfer, I always have and always shall ! " 

" Loves Black Jarge ! " he repeated ; " alius 'as — alius 
will! Oh, Lord! what 'ave I done?" Now, very slowly^ 
a tear crept down his wrinkled cheek, at sight of which 
Prue gave a little cry, and, kneeling beside his chair, took 
him in her arms. " Oh, my lass ! — my little Prue — 't is 
all my doin'. I thought — Oh, Prue, 't were me as parted 
you ! I thought — " The quivering voice broke off. 

" 'T is all right, grandfer, never think of it — see — 
there, I be smilin' ! " and she kissed him many times. 

" A danged fule I be ! " said the old man, shaking his 
head. 

" No, no, grandfer ! " 

" That 's what I be, Prue — a danged fule ! If I do go 
afore that theer old, rusty stapil, 't will serve me right — 
a danged fule I be! Alius loved 'im — alius will, air 



4i 8 The Broad Highway- 

wishful to wed wi' 'im! Why, then," said the Ancient, 
swallowing two or three times, " so 'ee shall, my sweet 

— so 'ee shall, sure as sure, so come an' kiss me, an' for- 
give the old man as loves 'ee so." 

" What do 'ee mean, grandfer? " said Prue between two 
kisses. 

" A fine, strappin' chap be Jarge ; arter all, Peter, you 
bean't a patch on Jarge for looks, be you? " 

" No, indeed, Ancient ! " 

" Wishful to wed 'im, she is, an' so she shall. Lordy 
Lord! Kiss me again, Prue, for I be goin' to see Squire 

— ay, I be goin' to up an' speak wi' Squire for Jarge — 
an' Peter be comin' too." 

" Oh, Mr. Peter! " faltered Prudence, " be this true? " 
and in her eyes was the light of a sudden hope. 

" Yes," I nodded. 

" D' you think Squire '11 see you — listen to you? " she 
cried breathlessly. 

" I think he will, Prudence," said I. 

" God bless you, Mr. Peter ! " she murmured. " God 
bless you ! " 

But now came the sound of wheels and the voice of 
Simon, calling, wherefore I took my hat and followed the 
Ancient to the door, but there Prudence stopped me. 

" Last time you met wi' Jarge — he tried to kill you. 
Oh, I know, and now — you be goin' to — " 

" Nonsense, Prue ! " said I. But, as I spoke, she stooped 
and would have kissed my hand, but I raised her and kissed 
her upon the cheek, instead. " For good luck, Prue," said 
I, and so turned and left her. 

In the porch sat Job, with Old Amos and the rest, still 
in solemn conclave over pipes and ale, who watched with 
gloomy brows as I swung myself up beside the Ancient in 
the cart. 

" A f ule's j ourney ! " remarked Old Amos sententiously, 
with a wave of his pipe; " a f ule's journey! " 

The Ancient cast an observing eye up at the cloudless 
sky, and also nodded solemnly. 



The Ancient is Surprised 419 

" Theer be some fules in this world, Peter, as mixes up 
rabbits wi' pa'tridges, and honest men — like Jarge — wi 
thieves, an' lazy waggabones — like Job — but we '11 show 
'em, Peter, we '11 show 'em — dang 'em ! Drive on, Simon, 
my bye ! " 

So, with this Parthian shot, feathered with the one 
strong word the Ancient kept for such occasions, we drove 
away from the silenced group, who stared mutely after 
us until we were lost to view. But the last thing I saw 
was the light in Prue's sweet eyes as she watched us from 
the open lattice. 



CHAPTER XXXII 

HOW WE SET OUT FOR BURNHAM HALL 

" Peter," said the Ancient, after we had gone a little 
way, " Peter, I do 'opes as you are n't been an' gone an' 
rose my Prue's 'opes only to dash 'era down again." 

" I can but do my best, Ancient." 

" Old Un," said Simon, " 't weren't Peter as rose 'er 
'opes, 't were you ; Peter never said nowt about bringin' 
Jarge 'orae — " 

" Simon," commanded the Ancient, " hold thy tongue, 
lad ; I says again, if Peter 's been an' rose Prue's 'opes 
only to dash 'em 't will be a bad day for Prue, you mark 
my words ; Prue 's a lass as don't love easy, an' don't 
forget easy." 

" Why, true, Gaffer, true, God bless 'er ! " 

* She be one as 'ud pine — slow an' quiet, like a flower 
in the woods, or a leaf in autumn — ah ! fade, she would, 
fade an' fade!" 

" Well, she bean't a-goin' to do no fadin', please the 
Lord!" 

" Not if me an' Peter an' you can 'elp it, Simon, my bye 
— but we 'm but poor worms, arter all, as the Bible says ; 
an' if Peter 'as been an' rose 'er 'opes o' freein' Jarge, an' 
don't free Jarge — if Jarge should 'ave to go a convic' 
to Austrayley, or — or t' other place, why then — she '11 
fade, fade as ever was, an' be laid in the churchyard afore 
5 er poor old grandfeyther ! " 

" Lord, Old Un ! " exclaimed Simon, " who 's a-talkin' 
o' f adin's an' churchyards ? I don't like it — let 's talk 
o' summ'at else." 



We Set out for Burnharn Hall 421 

" Simon," said the Ancient, shaking his head reprov- 
ingly, " ye be a good bye — ah ! a steady, dootiful lad ye 
be, I don't deny it ; but the Lord are n't give you no 
imagination, which, arter all, you should be main thankful 
for ; a imagination 's a troublesome thing — are n't it, 
Peter?" 

" It is," said I, " a damnable thing ! " 

" Ay — many 's the man as 'as been ruinated by 'is 
imagination — theer was one, Nicodemus Blyte were 'is 
name — " 

" And a very miserable cove 'e sounds, too ! " added 
Simon. 

" But a very decent, civil-spoke, quiet young chap 'e 
were ! " continued the Ancient, " only for 'is imagination ; 
Lord ! 'e were that full o' imagination 'e could n't drink 
'is ale like an ordinary chap — sip, 'e 'd go, an' sip, sip, 
till 't were all gone, an' then 'e 'd forget as ever 'e 'd 'ad 
any, an' go away wi'out paying for it — if some 'un 
did n't remind 'im — " 

" 'E were no fule, Old Un! " nodded Simon. 

" An' that were n't all, neither, not by no manner ©' 
means," tire Ancient continued. " I 've knowed that theer 
chap sit an' listen to a pretty lass by the hour together 
an' never say a word — not one ! " 

" Did n't git a chance to, p'r'aps ? " said Simon. 

"It weren't that, no, it were jest 'is imagination 
a-workin' an' workin' inside of 'im, an' fillin' 'im up. 
'Ows'ever, at last, one day, 'e up an' axed 'er to marry 
'im, an' she, bein' all took by surprise, said ' yes,' an' went 
an' married some 'un else." 

" Lord ! " said Simon, " what did she go and marry 
another chap for? " 

" Simon," returned the Ancient, " don't go askin' fulish 
questions. 'Ows'ever, she did, an' poor Nicodemus growed 
more imaginative than ever; arter that, 'e took to 
turnips." 

" Turnips ? " exclaimed Simon, staring. 

" Turnips as ever was ! " nodded the Ancient, " used 



422 The Broad Highway 

to stand, for hours at a time, a-lookin' at 'is turnips an' 
shakin' 'is 'ead over 'em." 

" But — what for? — a man must be a danged fule to 
go shakin' of 'is 'ead over a lot o' turnips ! " 

" Well, I don't know," rej oined the Ancient ; " 'is tur- 
nips was very good uns, as a rule, an' fetched top prices 
in the markets." 

At this juncture there appeared a man in a cart, ahead 
of us, who flourished his whip and roared a greeting, a 
coarse-visaged, loud-voiced fellow, whose beefy face was 
adorned with a pair of enormous fiery whiskers that 
seemed forever striving to hide his ears, which last, being 
very large and red, stood boldly out at right angles to his 
head, refusing to be thus ambushed, and scorning all 
concealment. 

" W'at — be that the Old Un — be you alive an' kickin' 
yet? " 

" Ay, God be thanked, John ! " 

" And w'at be all this I 'ear about that theer Black 
Jarge — 'e never were much good — but w'at be all 
this?" 

" Lies, mostly, you may tak* your oath ! " nodded the 
Ancient. 

" But 'e 've been took for poachin', ah ! an' locked up 
at the 'All — " 

" An' we 'm goin' to fetch un — we be goin' to see 
Squire — " 

"W'at — you, Old Un? You see Squire — haw! 
haw!" 

" Ah, me ! — an' Peter, an' Simon, 'ere — why not ? " 
" You see 'is Worship Sir Peregrine Beverley, Baronet, 
an' Justice o' the Peace — you? Ecod ! that 's a good 
un — danged if it ain't ! An' what might you be wishful 
to do when ye see 'im — which ye won't? " 
" Fetch back Jarge, o' course." 

" Old Un, you must be crazed in your 'ead, arter Jarge 
killin' four keepers — Sir Peregrine's own keepers too — 
shootin' 'em stone dead, an' three more a-dyin' — " 



We Set out for Burnham Hall 423 

" John," said the Ancient, shaking his head, " that 's 
the werst o' bein' cursed wi' ears like yourn — " 

" My ears is all right ! " returned John, frowning. 

" Oh, ah ! " chuckled the old man, " your ears is all 
right, John — prize ears, ye might call 'em ; I never seed 
a pair better grow'd — never, no ! " 

" A bit large, they may be," growled John, giving a 
furtive pull to the nearest ambush, " but — " 

" Large as ever was, John ! " nodded the Ancient — 
" oncommon large ! an', consequent, they ketches a lot 
too much. I 've kep' my eye on them ears o' yourn for 
thirty year an' more, John — if so be as they grows 
any bigger, you '11 be 'earin' things afore they 're spoke, 
an' — " 

John gave a fierce tug to the ambush, muttered an 
oath, and, lashing up his horse, disappeared down the 
road in a cloud of dust. 

" 'T were nigh on four year ago since Black Jarge 
thrashed John, were n't it, Simon? " 

" Ah! " nodded Simon, " John were in ' The Ring ' then, 
Peter, an' a pretty tough chap 'e were, too, though a bit 
too fond o' swingin' wi' 'is ' right ' to please me." 

" 'E were very sweet on Prue then, were n't 'e, 
Simon?" 

" Ah ! " nodded Simon again ; " 'e were alius 'anging 
round ' The Bull ' — till I warned 'im off — " 

" An' — 'e laughed at 'ee, Simon." 

" Ah ! 'e did that ; an' I were going to 'ave a go at 'im 
myself ; an' the chances are 'e 'd 'ave beat me, seein' I 
'ad n't been inside of a ring for ten year, when — " 

" Up comes Jarge," chuckled the Ancient. ' What 's 
all this ? ' say Jarge. ' I be goin' to teach John 'ere to 
keep away from my Prue,' says Simon. ' No, no,' says 
Jarge, ' John 's young, an' you bean't the man you was 
ten years ago — let me,' says Jarge. 'You? ' says John, 
' you get back to your bellers — you be purty big, but 
I 've beat the 'eads off better men nor you ! ' ' Why, then, 
'ave a try at mine,' says Jarge; an' wi' the word, bang! 



424 The Broad Highway 

comes John's fist again' 'is jaw, an' they was at it. ©h, 
Peter ! that were a fight ! I 've seed a few in my time, but 
nothin' like that 'ere." 

" And when 't were all over," added Simon, " Jarge went 
back to 'is 'ammer an' bellers, an' we picked John up, and 
I druv 'im 'ome in this 'ere very cart, an' nobody 's cared 
to stand up to Jarge since." 

" You have both seen Black George fight, then ? " I 
inquired. 

" Many 's the time, Peter." 

" And have you ever — seen him knocked down ? " 

" No," returned the Ancient, shaking his head, " I 've 
seed 'im all blood from 'ead to foot, an' once a gert, big 
sailor-man knocked 'im sideways, arter which Jarge got 
fu'rus-like, an' put 'im to sleep — " 

" No, Peter ! " added Simon, " I don't think as there 
be a man in all England as could knock Black Jarge off 
'is pins in a fair, stand-up fight." 

"Hum!" said I. 

" Ye see — 'e be that 'ard, Peter ! " nodded the Ancient. 
" Why, look ! " he cried — look 'ee theer ! " 

Now, looking where he pointed, I saw a man dart across 
the road some distance away; he was hidden almost im- 
mediately, for there were many trees thereabouts, but 
there was no mistaking that length of limb and breadth 
of shoulder. 

" 'T were Black Jarge 'isself ! " exclaimed Simon, whip- 
ping up his horses ; but when we reached the place George 
was gone, and though we called and sought for some time, 
we saw him no more. 

So, in a while, we turned and jogged back towards 
SissinghursL 

"What be you a-shakin' your 'ead over, Old Un? " 
inquired Simon, after we had ridden some distance. 

" I were wonderin' what that old fule Amos '11 say when 
we drive back wi'out Jarge." 

Being come to the parting of the ways, I descended 
from the cart, for my head was strangely heavy, and I 



We Set out for Burnham Hall 425 

felt much out of sorts, and, though the day was still 
young I had no mind for work. Therefore I bade 
adieu to Simon and the Ancient, and turned aside 
towards the Hollow, leaving them staring after me in 
wonderment. 



CHAPTER XXXHI 

IN WHICH I FALL FB-OM FOLLY INTO MADNESS 

It was with some little trepidation that I descended into 
the Hollow, and walked along beside the brook, for soon 
I should meet Charmian, and the memory of our parting, 
and the thought of this meeting, had been in my mind all 
day long. 

She would not be expecting me yet, for I was much 
before my usual time, wherefore I walked on slowly beside 
the brook, deliberating on what I should say to her, until 
I came to that large stone where I had sat dreaming the 
night when she had stood in the moonlight, and first 
bidden me in to supper. And now, sinking upon this stone, 
I set my elbows upon my knees, and my chin in my hands, 
and, fixing my eyes upon the ever-moving waters of the 
brook, fell into a profound meditation. 

From this I was suddenly aroused by the clink of iron 
and the snort of a horse. 

Wondering, I lifted my eyes, but the bushes were very 
dense, and I could see nothing. But, in a little, , borne 
upon the gentle wind, came the sound of a voice, low and 
soft and very sweet — whose rich tones there was no 
mistaking — followed, almost immediately, by another — 
deeper, gruffer — the voice of a man. 

With a bound, I was upon my feet, and had, somehow, 
crossed the brook, but, even so, I was too late; there was 
the crack of a whip, followed by the muffled thud of a 
horse's hoofs, which died quickly away, and was lost in 
the stir of leaves. 

I ground my teeth, and cursed that fate which seemed 



I Fall from Folly into Madness 427 

determined that I should not meet this man face to face 

— this man whose back I had seen but once — a broad- 
shouldered back clad in a blue coat. 

I stood where I was, dumb and rigid, staring straight 
before me, and once again a tremor passed over me, that 
came and went, growing stronger and stronger, and, once 
again, in my head was the thud, thud, thud of the hammer. 

" ' In Scarlet town, where I was born, 
There was a fair maid dwellin', 
Made every youth cry Well-a-way I 
Her name was Barbara Allen.' " 

She was approaching by that leafy path that wound its 
way along beside the brook, and there came upon me a 
physical nausea, and ever the thud of the hammer grew 
more maddening. 

" ' All in the merry month of May, 
When green buds they were swellin', 
Young Jemmy Grove on his death-bed lay, 
For love of Barbara Allen.' " 

Now, as she ended the verse, she came out into the 
open, and saw me, and, seeing me, looked deliberately over 
my head, and went on singing, while I — stood shivering : 

" ° So, slowly, slowly rase she up 
And slowly she came nigh him, 
And when she drew the curtain by — ■ 
" Young man, I think you 're dyin' ! " ' " 

And suddenly the trees and bushes swung giddily round 

— the grass swayed beneath my feet — and Charmian 
was beside me with her arm about my shoulders; but I 
pushed her from me, and leaned against a tree near by, 
and hearkened to the hammer in my brain. 

"Why — Peter!" said she. "Oh — Peter!" 
" Please, Charmian," said I, speaking between the ham- 
mer-strokes, " do not — touch me again — it is — too 
soon after — " 

" What do you mean — Peter? What do you mean? n 



428 The Broad Highway 

" He has — been with you — again — " 

" What do you mean ? " she cried. 

" I know of — his visits — if he was — the same as — 
last time — in a — blue coat — no, don't, don't touch me." 

But she had sprung upon me, and caught me by the 
arms, and shook me in a grip so strong that, giddy as I 
was, I reeled and staggered like a drunken man. And 
still her voice hissed: "What do you mean?" And her 
voice and hands and eyes were strangely compelling. 

" I mean," I answered, in a low, even voice, like one in 
a trance, " that you are a Messalina, a Julia, a Joan of 
Naples, beautiful as they — and as wanton." 

Now at the word she cried out, and struck me twice across 
the face, blows that burnt and stung. 

"Beast!" she cried. "Liar! Oh, that I had the 
strength to grind you into the earth beneath my foot. Oh ! 
you poor, blind, self-deluding fool ! " and she laughed, and 
her laughter stung me most of all. " As I look at you," 
she went on, the laugh still curling her lip, " you stand 
there — what you are — a beaten hound. This is my last 
look, and I shall always remember you as I see you now — 
scarlet-cheeked, shamefaced — a beaten hound ! " And, 
speaking, she shook her hand at me, and turned upon her 
heel; but with that word, and in that instant, the old, 
old demon leapt up within me, and, as he leapt, I clasped 
my arms about her, and caught her up, and crushed her 
close and high against my breast. 

" Go? " said I. " Go — no — no, not yet! " 

And now, as her eyes met mine, I felt her tremble, yet 
she strove to hide her fear, and heaped me with bitter 
scorn; but I only shook my head and smiled. And now 
she struggled to break my clasp, fiercely, desperately ; her 
long hair burst its fastenings, and enveloped us both in its 
rippling splendor; she beat my face, she wound her 
fingers in my hair, but my lips smiled on, for the hammer 
in my brain had deadened all else. 

And presently she lay still. I felt her body relax and 
grow suddenly pliable and soft, her head fell back across 



I Fall from Folly into Madness 429 

my arm, and, as she lay, I saw the tears of her helplessness 
ooze out beneath her drooping lashes ; but still I smiled. 

So, with her long hair trailing over me, I bore her to 
the cottage. Closing the door behind me with my foot, I 
crossed the room, and set her down upon the bed. 

She lay very still, but her bosom heaved tumultuously, 
and the tears still crept from beneath her lashes ; but in 
a while she opened her eyes and looked at me, and shivered, 
and crouched farther from me, among the pillows. 

" Why did you lie to me, Charmian ; why did you lie 
to me? " She did not answer, only she watched me as one 
might watch some relentless, oncoming peril. 

" I asked you once if you ever saw men hereabouts — 
when I was away, do you remember ? You told me, ' no,' 
and, while you spoke, I knew you lied, for I had seen him 
standing among the leaves, waiting and watching for you. 
I once asked you if you were ever lonely when I was away, 
and you answered ; no,' — you were too busy — ' seldom 
went beyond the Hollow ' — do you remember ? And yet 
— you had brought him here — here, into the cottage — 
he had looked at my Virgil — over your shoulder — do 
you remember? " 

" You played the spy ! " she whispered with trembling 
Lips, yet with eyes still fierce and scornful. 

" You know I did not ; had I seen him I should have 
killed him, because — I loved you. I had set up an altar 
to you in my heart, where my soul might worship — poor 
fool that I was! I loved you with every breath I drew. 
I think I must have shown you something of this, from 
time to time, for you are very clever, and you may have 
laughed over it together — you and he. And lately I have 
seen my altar foully desecrated, shattered, and utterly 
destroyed, and, with it, your sweet womanhood dragged in 
the mire, and yet — I loved you still. Can you imagine, 
I wonder, the agony of it, the haunting horrors of imagi- 
nation, the bitter days, the sleepless nights? To see you 
so beautiful, so glorious, and know you so base! Indeed, 
I think it came near driving me mad. It has sent me out 



43° The Broad Highway 

into the night ; I have held out my arms for the lightning 
to blast me; I have wished myself a thousand deaths. If 
Black George had but struck a little harder — or a little 
lighter; I am not the man I was before he thrashed me; 
my head grows confused and clouded at times — would to 
God I were dead ! But now — you would go ! Having 
killed my heart, broken my life, driven away all peace of 
mind — you would leave me! No, Charmian, I swear by 
God you shall not go — yet awhile. I have bought you 
very dear — bought you with my bitter agony, and by all 
the blasting torments I have suffered." 

Now, as I ended, she sprang from the bed and faced me, 
but, meeting my look, she shrank a little, and drew her 
long hair about her like a mantle, then sought with trem- 
bling hands to hold me off. 

" Peter — be sane. Oh, Peter ! be merciful and let me 
go — give me time — let me explain." 

" My books," said I, " have taught me that the more 
beautiful a woman's face the more guileful is her heart; 
and your face is wonderfully beautiful, and, as for youi 
heart — you lied to me before." 

"I — oh, Peter ! — I am not the poor creature you 
think me." 

" Were you the proudest lady in the land — you have 
deceived me and mocked me and lied to me ! " So saying, 
I reached out, and seized her by each rounded arm, and 
slowly drew her closer. And now she strove no more 
against me, only in her face was bitter scorn, and an anger 
that cast out fear. 

" I hate you — despise you ! " she whispered. " I hate 
you more than any man was ever hated ! " 

Inch by inch I drew her to me, until she stood close, 
within the circle of my arms. 

" And I think I love you more than any woman was 
ever loved ! " said I ; " for the glorious beauty of your 
strong, sweet body, for the temptation of your eyes, for 
the red lure of your lips ! " And so I stooped and kissed 
her full upon the mouth. She lay soft and warm in my 



I Fall from Folly into Madness 43 1 

embrace, all unresisting, only she shivered beneath my 
kiss, and a great sob rent her bosom. 

" And I also think," said I, " that, because of the perfidy 
of your heart, I hate you as much as you do me — as 
much as ever woman, dead or living, was hated by man — 
and shall — forever ! " 

And, while I spoke, I loosed her and turned, and strode 
swiftly out and away from the cottage. 



CHAPTER XXXIV 

IN WHICH I FIND PEACE AND JOY AND AN 
ABIDING SORROW 

I hurried on, looking neither to right nor left, seeing 
only the face of Charmian, now fearful and appealing, now 
blazing with scorn. And coming to the brook, I sat down, 
and thought upon her marvellous beauty, of the firm round- 
ness of the arms that my fingers had so lately pressed. 
Anon I started up again, and plunged, knee-deep, through 
the brook, and strode on and on, bursting my way through 
bramble and briar, heedless of their petty stings, till at last 
I was clear of them, being now among trees. And here, 
where the shadow was deepest, I came upon a lurking figure 
— a figure I recognized — a figure there was no mistaking, 
and which I should have known in a thousand. 

A shortish, broad-shouldered man, clad in a blue coat, 
who stood with his back towards me, looking down into the 
Hollow, in the attitude of one who waits — for what? for 
whom ? 

He was cut off from me by a solitary bush, a bramble, 
that seemed to have strayed from its kind and lost itself, 
and, running upon my toes, I cleared this bush at a 
bound, and, before the fellow had realized my presence, I 
had pinned him by the collar. 

" Damn you ! — show your face ! " I cried, and swung 
him round so fiercely that he staggered, and his hat fell off. 

Then, as I saw, I clasped my head between my hands, 
and fell back — staring. 

A grizzled man with an honest, open face, a middle-aged 



I Find Peace and Joy 433 

man whose homely features were lighted by a pair of kindly 
blue eyes, just now round with astonishment. 

" Lord ! — Mr. Peter ! " he exclaimed. 

" Adam ! " I groaned. " Oh, God forgive me, it 's 
Adam ! " 

" Lord ! Mr. Peter," said he again, " you sure give me 
a turn, sir ! But what 's the matter wi' you, sir ? Come, 
Mr. Peter, never stare so wild like — come, sir, what is 
it?" 

" Tell ire — quick ! " said I, catching his hand in mine, 
" you have been here many times before of late? " 

" Why — yes, Mr. Peter, but — " 

" Quick ! " said I ; "on one occasion she took you into 
the cottage yonder and showed you a book — you looked 
at it over her shoulder ? " 

"Yes, sir — but — " 

" What sort of book was it? " 

" A old book, sir, wi' the cover broke, and wi' your name 
writ down inside of it ; 't was that way as she found out 
who you was — " 

" Oh, Adam ! " I cried. " Oh, Adam ! now may God help 
me ! " And, dropping his hand, I turned and ran until I 
reached the cottage ; but it was empty, Charmian was gone. 

In a fever of haste I sought her along the brook, among 
the bushes and trees, even along the road. And, as I 
sought, night fell, and in the shadows was black despair. 

I searched the Hollow from end to end, calling upon her 
name, but no sound reached me, save the hoot of an owl, 
and the far-off, dismal cry of a corncrake. 

With some faint hope that she might have returned to 
the cottage, I hastened thither, but, finding it dark and 
desolate, I gave way to my despair. 

O blind, self -deceiving fool ! She had said that, and she 
was right — as usual. She had called me an egoist — I 
was an egoist, a pedant, a blind, self -deceiving fool who 
had wilfully destroyed all hopes of a happiness the very 
thought of which had so often set me trembling — and now 
— she had left me — was gone ! The world — my world, 



434 The Broad Highway 

was a void — its emptiness terrified me. How should I 
live without Charmian, the woman whose image was ever 
before my eyes, whose soft, low voice was ever in my ears? 

And I had thought so much to please her ! I who had 
set my thoughts to guard my tongue, lest by word or look 
I might offend her ! And this was the end of it ! 

Sitting down at the table, I leaned my head there, press- 
ing my forehead against the hard wood, and remained thus 
a great while. 

At last, because it was very dark, I found and lighted a 
candle, and came and stood beside her bed. Very white 
and trim it looked, yet I was glad to see its smoothness 
rumpled where I had laid her down, and to see the depres- 
sion in the pillow that her head had made. And, while 
I stood there, up to me stole a perfume very faint, like 
the breath of violets in a wood at evening time, wherefore 
I sank down upon my knees beside the bed. 

And now the full knowledge of my madness rushed upon 
me in an overwhelming flood ; but with misery was a great 
and mighty joy, for now I knew her worthy of all respect 
and honor and worship, for her intellect, for her proud 
virtue, and for her spotless purity. And thus, with joy 
came remorse, and with remorse — an abiding sorrow. 

And gradually my arms crept about the pillow where 
her head had so often rested, wherefore I kissed it, and 
laid my head upon it and sighed, and so fell into a troubled 
sleep. 



CHAPTER XXXV 

HOW BLACK GEORGE FOUND PRUDENCE IN THE DAWN 

The chill of dawn was in the air when I awoke, and it was 
some few moments before, with a rush, I remembered why 
I was kneeling there beside Charmian's bed. Shivering, 
I rose and walked up and down to reduce the stiffness in 
mj limbs. 

The fire was out and I had no mind to light it, for I was 
in no mood to break my fast, though the necessary things 
stood ready, as her orderly hands had set them, and the 
plates and cups and saucers twinkled at me from the little 
cupboard I had made to hold them ; a cupboard whose con- 
struction she had overlooked with a critical eye. And I 
must needs remember how she had insisted on being per- 
mitted to drive in three nails with her own hand — I could 
put my finger on those very nails ; how she had tapped at 
those nails for fear of missing them ; how beautiful she had 
looked in her coarse apron, and with her sleeves rolled up 
ever her round white arms — how womanly and sweet ; yet 
I had dared to think — had dared to call her — a Messa- 
lina ! Oh, that my tongue had withered or ever I had coupled 
one so pure and noble with a creature so base and common ! 

So thinking, I sighed and went out into the dawn; as 
I closed the door behind me its hollow slam struck me 
sharply, and I called to mind how she had called it a bad 
and ill-fitting door. And indeed so it was. 

With dejected step and hanging head I made my way 
towards Sissinghurst (for, since I was up, I might as well 
work, and there was much to be done), and, as I went, I 
heard a distant clock chime four. 



436 The Broad Highway 

Now, when I reached the village the sun was beginning 
to rise, and thus, lifting up my eyes, I beheld one standing 
before " The Bull," a very tall man, much bigger and 
greater than most ; a wild figure in the dawn, with matted 
hair and beard, and clad in tattered clothes ; yet hair and 
beard gleamed a red gold where the light touched them, 
and there was but one man I knew so tall and so mighty 
as this. Wherefore I hurried towards him, all unnoticed, 
for his eyes were raised to a certain latticed casement of 
the inn. 

And, being come up, I reached out and touched this man 
upon the arm. 

" George ! " said I, and held out my hand. He turned 
swiftly, but, seeing me, started back a pace, staring. 

" George ! " said I again. " Oh, George ! " But George 
only backed still farther, passing his hand once or twice 
across his eyes. 

"Peter?" said he at last, speaking hardly above a 
whisper ; " but you 'm dead, Peter, dead — I killed 'ee." 

" No," I answered, " you did n't kill me, George — 
indeed, I wish you had — you came pretty near it, but you 
did n't quite manage it. And, George — I 'm very deso- 
late — won't you shake hands with a very desolate man ? 
— if you can, believing that I have always been your 
friend, and a true and loyal one, then, give me your hand ; 
if not — if you think me still the despicable traitor you 
once did, then, let us go into the field yonder, and if you 
can manage to knock me on the head for good and all this 
time — why, so much the better. Come, what do you 
say?" 

Without a word Black George turned and led the way 
to a narrow lane a little distance beyond " The Bull," and 
from the lane into a meadow. Being come thither, I took 
off my coat and neckerchief, but this time I cast no look 
upon the world about me, though indeed it was fair enough. 
But Black George stood half turned from me, with his 
fists clenched and his broad shoulders heaving oddly. 

" Peter," said he, in his slow, heavy way, " never clench 



Black George Found Prudence 437 

ye fists to me — don't — I can't abide it. But oh, man, 
Peter ! 'ow may I clasp 'ands wi' a chap as I 've tried to 
kill — I can't do it, Peter — but don't — don't clench ye 
fists again me no more. I were jealous of 'ee from the first 

— ye see, you beat me at th' 'ammer-throwin' — an' she 
took your part again me ; an' then, you be so takin' in your 
ways, an' I be so big an' clumsy — so very slow an' 'eavy. 
Theer bean't no choice betwixt us for a maid like Prue — 
she alius was different from the likes o' me, an' any lass wi' 
half an eye could see as you be a gentleman, ah ! an' a good 
un. An' so Peter, an' so — I be goin' away — a sojer — 
p'r'aps I sha'n't love the dear lass quite so much arter a 
bit — p'r'aps it won't be quite so sharp-like, arter a bit, but 
what 's to be — is to be. I 've larned wisdom, an' you an' 
she was made for each other an' meant for each other from 
the first ; so — don't go to clench ye fists again me no more, 
Peter." 

" Never again, George ! " said I. 

" Unless," he continued, as though struck by a bright 
idea, " unless you 'm minded to 'ave a whack at me ; if so be 

— why, tak' it, Peter, an' welcome. Ye see, I tried so 'ard 
to kill 'ee — so cruel 'ard, Peter, an' I thought I 'ad. I 
thought 't were for that as they took me, an' so I broke my 
way out o' the lock-up, to come an' say ' good-by ' to 
Prue's winder, an' then I were goin' back to give myself 
up an' let 'em hang me if they wanted to." 

" Were you, George ? " 

" Yes." Here George turned to look at me, and, look- 
ing, dropped his eyes and fumbled with his hands, while 
up under his tanned skin there crept a painful, burning 
crimson. " Peter ! " said he. 

"Yes, George?" 

" I got summ'at more to tell 'ee — summ'at as I never 
meant to tell to a soul ; when you was down — lyin' at my 
feet — " 

"Yes, George?" 

" I — I kicked 'ee — once! " 

" Did you, George? " 



43 8 The Broad Highway 

" Ay — I — I were mad — mad wi' rage an' blood lust, 
an' — oh, man, Peter ! — I kicked 'ee. Theer," said he, 
straightening his shoulders, " leastways I can look 'ee in 
the eye now that be off my mind. An' now, if so be you 'm 
wishful to tak' ye whack at me — why, let it be a good un, 
Peter." 

" No, I shall never raise my hand to you again, George." 

" 'T is likely you be thinkin' me a poor sort o' man, 
arter what — what I just told 'ee — a coward? " 

" I think you more of a man than ever," said I. 

" Why, then, Peter — if ye do think that, here 's my 
hand — if ye '11 tak' it, an' I — bid ye — good-by ! " 

" I '11 take your hand — and gladly, George, but not to 
wish you good-by — it shall be, rather, to bid you welcome 
home again." 

" No," he cried. "No-I could n't — I could n't abide 
to see you an' — Prue — married, Peter — no, I could n't 
abide it." 

" And you never will, George. Prue loves a stronger, 
a better man than I. And she has wept over him, George, 
and prayed over him, such tears and prayers as surely 
might win the blackest soul to heaven, and has said that 
she would marry that man — ah ! even if he came back with 
fetter-marks upon him — even then she would marry him 
— if he would only ask her." 

" Oh, Peter ! " cried George, seizing my shoulders in a 
mighty grip and looking into my eyes with tears in his own, 
" oh, man, Peter — you as knocked me down an' as I love 
for it — be this true ? " 

" It is God's truth ! " said I, " and look ! — there is a 
sign to prove I am no liar — look ! " and I pointed towards 
" The Bull." 

George turned, and I felt his fingers tighten suddenly, 
for there, at the open doorway of the inn, with the early 
glory of the morning all about her, stood Prue. As we 
watched, she began to cross the road towards the smithy, 
with laggard step and drooping head. 

" Do you know where she is going, George? I can tell 



Black George Found Prudence 439 

you — she is going to your smithy — to pray for you — 
do you hear, to pray for you? Come! " and I seized his 
arm. 

" No, Peter, no — I durst n't — I could n't." But he 
suffered me to lead him forward, nevertheless. Once he 
stopped and glanced round, but the village was asleep 
about us. And so we presently came to the open doorway 
of the forge. 

And behold! Prue was kneeling before the anvil with 
her face hidden in her arms, and her slender body swaying 
slightly. But all at once, as if she felt him near her, she 
raised her head and saw him, and sprang to her feet with 
a glad cry. And, as she stood, George went to her, and 
knelt at her feet, and raising the hem of her gown, stooped 
and kissed it. 

" Oh, my sweet maid ! " said he. " Oh, my sweet Prue ! 
— I bean't worthy — I bean't — " But she caught the 
great shaggy head to her bosom and stifled it there. 

And in her face was a radiance — a happiness beyond 
words, and the man's strong arms clung close about her. 

So I turned, and left them in paradise together. 



// 



CHAPTER XXXVI 

WHICH SYMPATHIZES WITH A BRASS JACK, A BRACE 
OF CUTLASSES, AND DIVERS POTS AND PANS 

I found the Ancient sunning himself in the porch before 
the inn, as he waited for his breakfast. 

" Peter," said he, " I be tur'ble cold sometimes. It 
comes a-creepin' on me all at once, even if I be sittin' 
before a roarin' fire or a-baskin' in this good, warm sun 
■ — a cold as reaches down into my poor old 'eart — grave- 
chills, I calls 'em, Peter — ah ! grave-chiHs. Ketches me 
by the 'eart they do ; ye see I be that old, Peter, that old 
an' wore out." 

" But you 're a wonderful man for your age ! " said I, 
clasping the shrivelled hand in mine, " and very lusty and 
strong — " 

" So strong as a bull I be, Peter ! " he nodded readily, 
" but then, even a bull gets old an' wore out, an' these 
grave-chills ketches me oftener an' oftener. 'T is like as 
if the Angel o' Death reached out an' touched me — just 
touched me wi' 'is finger, soft-like, as much as to say: 
' 'Ere be a poor, old, wore-out creeter as I shall be wantin' 
soon.' Well, I be ready ; 't is only the young or the fule 
as fears to die. Threescore years an' ten, says the Bible, 
an' I be years an' years older than that. Oh ! I sha'n't be 
afeared to answer when I 'm called, Peter. ' 'Ere I be, 
Lord ! ' I '11 say. ' 'Ere I be, thy poor old servant ' — but 
oh, Peter ! if I could be sure o' that theer old rusty stapil 
bein' took first, why then I'd go j'yful — j'yful, but — ■ 
why theer be that old fule Amos — Lord ! what a dodderin* 



Sympathizes with a Brass Jack 441 

old fule 'e be, an' theer be Job, an' Dutton — they be comin' 
to plague me, Peter, I can feel it in my bones. Jest reach 
me my snuff-box out o' my 'ind pocket, an' you shall see 
me smite they Amalekites 'ip an' thigh." 

" Gaffer," began Old Amos, saluting us with his usual 
grin, as he came up, " we be wishful to ax 'ee a question 
— we be wishful to know wheer be Black Jarge, which you 
'avin' gone to fetch 'im, an' bring 'im 'ome again — them 
was your words." 

" Ah ! " nodded Job, " them was your very words, 
' bring 'im 'ome again,' says you — " 

" But you did n't bring 'im 'ome," continued Old Amos, 
" leastways, not in the cart wi' you. Dutton 'ere — James 
Dutton see you come drivin' 'ome, but 'e did n't see no 
Jarge along wi' you — no, not so much as you could shake 
a stick at, as you might say. Speak up, James Dutton — 
you was a-leanin' over your front gate as Gaffer come 
drivin' 'ome, was n't you, an' you see Gaffer plain as plain, 
did n't you?" 

" Wich, me wishin' no offense, an' no one objectin' — 
I did," began the Apology, perspiring profusely as usual, 
" but I takes the liberty to say as it were a spade, an' not 
a gate — leastways — " 

" But you did n't see no signs o' Jarge, did ye ? " de- 
manded Old Amos, " as ye might say, neither 'ide nor 'air 
of 'im — speak up, James Dutton." 

" Wich, since you axes me, I makes so bold as to an- 
swer — an' very glad I 'm sure — no ; though as to 'ide 
an' 'air, I are n't wishin' to swear to, me not bein' near 
enough — w'ich could only be expected, an' very much 
obliged, I 'm sure." 

" Ye see, Gaffer," pursued Amos, " if you did n't bring 
Jarge back wi* you — w'ich you said you would — the 
question we axes is — wheer be Jarge ? " 

" Ah ! — wheer ? " nodded Job gloomily. Here the An- 
cient was evidently at a loss, to cover which, he took a 
vast pinch of snuff. 

" 'Ow be we to know as 'e bean't pinin' away in a dun- 



44 2 The Broad Highway 

geon cell wi' irons on 'is legs, an' strapped in a strait- 
jacket an — " 

Old Amos stopped, open-mouthed and staring, for out 
from the gloom of the smithy issued Black George himself, 
with Prue upon his arm. The Ancient stared also, but, 
dissembling his vast surprise, he dealt the lid of his snuff- 
box two loud, triumphant knocks. 

" Peter," said he, rising stiffly, " Peter, lad, I were be- 
ginnin' to think as Jarge were never comin' in to breakfus* 
at all. I 've waited and waited till I be so ravenous as a 
lion an' tiger — but 'ere 'e be at last, Peter, 'ere 'e be, so 
let 's go in an' eat summ'at." Saying which, he turned 
his back upon his discomfited tormentors, and led me into 
the kitchen of the inn. 

And there were the white-capped maids setting forth 
such a breakfast as only such a kitchen could produce. 
And, presently, there was Prue herself, with George hang- 
ing back, something shamefaced, till the Ancient had hob- 
bled forward to give him welcome* And there was honest 
Simon, all wonderment and hearty greeting. And (last, 
but by no means least) there were the battered cutlasses, 
the brass jack, and the glittering pots and pans — glit- 
tering and gleaming and twinkling a greeting likewise, 
and with all their might. 

Ah! but they little guessed why Prue's eyes were so 
shy and sweet, or why the color came and went in her pretty 
cheeks ; little they guessed why this golden-haired giant 
trod so lightly, and held his tall head so very high — little 
they dreamed of the situation as yet ; had they done so, 
surely they must, one and all, have fallen upon that curly, 
golden head and buried it beneath their gleaming, glitter- 
ing, twinkling jealousy. 

And what a meal was that! with those deft, white- 
capped maids to wait upon our wants, and with Prudence 
hovering here and there to see that all were duly served, 
and refusing to sit down until George's great arm — a 
very gentle arm for one so strong and big — drew her 
down beside him. 



Sympathizes with a Brass Jack 443 

Yes, truly, what a meal that was, and how the Ancient 
chuckled, and dug me with one bony elbow and George 
with the other, and chuckled again till he choked, and 
choked till he gasped, and gasped till he had us all upon 
our feet, then demanded indignantly why we could n't let 
him " enj 'y hisself in peace." 

And now, when the meal was nearly over, he suddenly 
took it into his head that Prue did n't love George as she 
should and as he deserved to be, and nothing would con- 
tent him but that she must kiss him then and there. 

" An' not on the forr'ud, mind — nor on the cheek, but 
on the place as God made for it — the mouth, my lass ! " 

And now, who so shy and blushing as Prue, and who 
so nervous, for her sake, as Black George, very evidently 
clasping her hand under the table, and bidding her never 
to mind — as he was content, and never to put herself 
out over such as him. Whereupon Mistress Prue must 
needs turn, and taking his head between her hands, kissed 
him — not once, or twice, but three times, and upon " the 
place God made for it — the mouth." 

O gleaming Cutlasses ! O great Brass Jack and glitter- 
ing Pots and Pans! can ye any longer gleam and glitter 
and twinkle in doubt ? Alas ! I trow not. Therefore it 
is only natural and to be expected that beneath your out- 
ward polish lurk black and bitter feelings against this 
curly-headed giant, and a bloodthirsty desire for ven- 
geance. If so, then one and all of you have, at least, the 
good feeling not to show it, a behavior worthy of gentle- 
men — what do I say? — of gentlemen? — fie ! rather let 
it be said — of pots and pans. 



CHAPTER XXXVII 

THE PREACHER 

It is a wise and (to some extent) a true saying, that hard 
work is an antidote to sorrow, a panacea for all trouble; 
but when the labor is over and done, when the tools are 
set by, and the weary worker goes forth into the quiet 
evening — how then? For we cannot always work, and, 
sooner or later, comes the still hour when Memory rushes 
in upon us again, and Sorrow and Remorse sit, dark and 
gloomy, on either hand. 

A week dragged by, a season of alternate hope and black 
despair, a restless fever of nights and days, for with each 
dawn came hope, that lived awhile beside me, only to fly 
away with the sun, and leave me to despair. 

I hungered for the sound of Charmian's voice, for the 
quick, light fall of her foot, for the least touch of her 
hand. I became more and more possessed of a morbid 
fancy that she might be existing near by — could I but 
find her; that she had passed along the road only a little 
while before me, or, at this very moment, might be ap- 
proaching, might be within sight, were I but quick enough. 

Often at such times I would fling down my hammer or 
tongs, to George's surprise, and, hurrying to the door, 
stare up and down the road; or pause in my hammer- 
strokes, fiercely bidding George do the same, fancying I 
heard her voice calling to me from a distance. And George 
would watch me with a troubled brow but, with a rare 
delicacy, say no word. 

Indeed, the thought of Charmian was with me every- 
where, the ringing hammers mocked me with her praises, 



The Preacher 445 

the bellows sang of her beauty, the trees whispered " Char- 
mian ! Charmian ! " and Charmian was in the very air. 

But when I had reluctantly bidden George " good night," 
and set out along lanes full of the fragrant dusk of even- 
ing ; when, reaching the Hollow, I followed that leafy path 
beside the brook, which she and I had so often trodden 
together; when I sat in my gloomy, disordered cottage, 
with the deep silence unbroken save for the plaintive mur- 
mur of the brook — then, indeed, my loneliness was well- 
nigh more than I could bear. 

There were dark hours when the cottage rang with 
strange sounds, when I would lie face down upon the floor, 
clutching my throbbing temples between my palms — fear- 
ful of myself, and dreading the oncoming horror of 
madness. 

It was at this time, too, that I began to be haunted by 
the thing above the door — the rusty staple upon which 
a man had choked out his wretched life sixty and six years 
ago ; a wanderer, a lonely man, perhaps acquainted with 
misery or haunted by remorse, one who had suffered much 
and long — even as I — but who had eventually escaped 
it all — even as I might do. Thus I would sit, chin in 
hand, staring up at this staple until the light failed, and 
sometimes, in the dead of night, I would steal softly there 
to touch it with my finger. 

Looking back on all this, it seems that I came very near 
losing my reason, for I had then by no means recovered 
from Black George's fist, and indeed even now I am at 
times not wholly free from its effect. 

My sleep, too, was often broken and troubled with wild 
dreams, so that bed became a place of horror, and, rising, 
I would sit before the empty hearth, a candle guttering at 
my elbow, and think of Charmian until I would fancy I 
heard the rustle of her garments behind me, and start up, 
trembling and breathless ; at such times the tap of a blown 
leaf against the lattice would fill me with a fever of hope 
and expectation. Often and often her soft laugh stole 
to me in the gurgle of the brook, and she would call to 



44-6 The Broad Elighway 

me in the deep night silences in a voice very sweet, and 
faint, and far away. Then I would plunge out into the 
dark, and lift my hands to the stars that winked upon my 
agony, and journey on through a desolate world, to re- 
turn with the dawn, weary and despondent. 

It was after one of these wild night expeditions that I 
sat beneath a tree, watching the sunrise. And yet 1 think 
I must have dozed, for I was startled by a voice close above 
me, and, glancing up, I recognized the little Preacher. As 
our eyes met he immediately took the pipe from his lips, 
and made as though to cram it into his pocket. 

" Though, indeed, it is empty ! " he explained, as though 
I had spoken. " Old habits cling to one, young sir, and 
my pipe, here, has been the friend of my solitude these 
many years, and 1 cannot bear to turn my back upon it 
yet, so I carry it with me still, and sometimes, when at all 
thoughtful, I find it between my lips. But though the 
flesh, as you see, is very weak, I hope, in time, to forego 
even this," and he sighed, shaking his head in gentle depre- 
cation of himself. " But you look pale — haggard," he 
went on ; " you are ill, young sir ! " 

" No, no," said I, springing to my feet ; " look at this 
arm, is it the arm of a sick man? No, no — I am well 
enough, but what of him we found in the ditch, you 
and I — the miserable creature who lay bubbling in the 
grass ? " 

" He has been very near death, sir — indeed his days 
are numbered, I think, yet he is better, for the time being, 
and last night declared his intention of leaving the shelter 
of my humble roof and setting forth upon his mission." 

" His mission, sir? " 

"He speaks of himself as one chosen by God to work 
His will, and asks but to live until this mission, whatever 
it is, be accomplished. A strange being ! " said the little 
Preacher, puffing at his empty pipe again as we walked 
on side by side, " a dark, incomprehensible man, and a 
very, very wretched one — poor soul ! " 

" Wretched ? " said I, " is not that our human lot ? 



The Preacher 447 

* Man is born to sorrow as the sparks fly upward,' and 
Job was accounted wise in his generation." 

" That was a cry from the depths of despond ; but Job 
stood, at last, upon the heights, and felt once more God's 
blessed sun, and rejoiced — even as we should. But, as 
regards this stranger, he is one who would seem to have 
suffered some great wrong, the continued thought of which 
has unhinged his mind ; his heart seems broken — dead. 
I have, sitting beside his delirious couch, heard him 
babble a terrible indictment against some man; I have 
also heard him pray, and his prayers have been all for 
vengeance." 

" Poor fellow ! " said I, " it were better we had left him 
to die in his ditch, for if death does not bring oblivion, it 
may bring a change of scene." 

" Sir," said the Preacher, laying his hand upon my arm, 
" such bitterness in one so young is unnatural ; you are 
in some trouble, I would that I might aid you, be your 
friend — know you better — " 

" Oh, sir ! that is easily done. I am a blacksmith, hard- 
working, sober, and useful to my fellows ; they call me 
Peter Smith. A certain time since I was a useless dreamer ; 
spending more money in a week than I now earn in a year, 
and getting very little for it. I was studious, egotistical, 
and pedantic, wasting my time upon impossible transla- 
tions that nobody wanted — and they knew me as — Peter 
Vibart." 

" Vibart ! " exclaimed the Preacher, starting and looking 
up at me. 

"Vibart!" I nodded. 

" Related in any way to — Sir Maurice Vibart? " 

" His cousin, sir." My companion appeared lost in 
thought, for he was puffing at his empty pipe again. 

" Do you happen to know Sir Maurice ? " I inquired. 

" No," returned the Preacher ; " no, sir, but I have 
heard mention of him, and lately, though just when, or 
where, I cannot for the life of me recall." 

" Why, the name is familiar to a great many people," 



448 The Broad Highway- 

said I ; " you see, he is rather a famous character, in his 
way." 

Talking thus, we presently reached a stile beyond which 
the footpath led away through swaying corn and by shady 
hop-garden, to Sissinghurst village. Here the Preacher 
stopped and gave me his hand, but I noticed he still puffed 
at his pipe. 

" And you are now a blacksmith? " 

" And mightily content so to be." 

" You are a most strange young man ! " said the 
Preacher, shaking his head. 

" Many people have told me the same, sir," said I, and 
vaulted over the stile. Yet, turning back when I had gone 
some way, I saw him leaning where I had left him, and 
with his pipe still in his mouth. 



CHAPTER XXXVIII 

IN WHICH I MEET MY COUSIN, SIR MAURICE VIBART 

As I approached the smithy, late though the hour was, 
(and George made it a rule to have the fire going by six 
every morning}, no sound of hammer reached me, and 
coming into the place, I found it empty. Then I remem- 
bered that to-day George was to drive over to Tonbridge, 
with Prudence and the Ancient, to invest in certain house- 
hold necessities, for in a month's time they were to be 
married. 

Hereupon I must needs contrast George's happy future 
with my dreary one, and fall bitterly to cursing myself; 
and, sitting on the Ancient's stool in the corner, I covered 
my face, and my thoughts were very black. 

Now presently, as I sat thus, I became conscious of a 
very delicate perfume in the air, and also, that some one 
had entered quietly. My breath caught in my throat, but 
I did not at once look up, fearing to dispel the hope that 
tingled within me. So I remained with my face still cov- 
ered until something touched me, and I saw that it was 
the gold-mounted handle of a whip, wherefore I raised 
my head suddenly and glanced up. 

Then I beheld a radiant vision in polished riding-boots 
and speckless moleskins, in handsome flowered waistcoat 
and perfect-fitting coat, with snowy frills at throat and 
wrists ; a tall, gallant figure, of a graceful, easy bearing, 
who stood, a picture of cool, gentlemanly insolence, tap- 
ping his boot lightly with his whip. But, as his eye met 
mine, the tapping whip grew suddenly still; his languid 
expression vanished, he came a quick step nearer and bent 



45 o The Broad Highway 

his face nearer my own — a dark face, handsome in its 
way, pale and aquiline, with a powerful j aw, and dominat- 
ing eyes and mouth; a face (nay, a mask rather) that 
smiled and smiled, but never showed the man beneath. 

Now, glancing up at his brow, I saw there a small, 
newly healed scar. 

" Is it possible? " said he, speaking in that softly modu- 
lated voice I remembered to have heard once before. " Can 
it be possible that I address my worthy cousin? That 
shirt! that utterly impossible coat and belcher! And yet 
— the likeness is remarkable ! Have I the — honor to 
address Mr. Peter Vibart — late of Oxford?" 

" The same, sir," I answered, rising. 

" Then, most worthy cousin, I salute you," and he re- 
moved his hat, bowing with an ironic grace. " Believe me, 
I have frequently desired to see that paragon of all the 
virtues whose dutiful respect our revered uncle rewarded 
with the proverbial shilling. Egad ! " he went on, exam- 
ining me through his glass with a great show of interest, 
" had you been any other than that same virtuous Cousin 
Peter whose graces and perfections were forever being 
thrown at my head, I could have sympathized with you, 
positively — if only on account of that most obnoxious 
coat and belcher, and the grime and sootiness of things 
in general. Poof ! " he exclaimed, pressing his perfumed 
handkerchief to his nostrils, " faugh ! how damnably sul- 
phur-and-brimstony you do keep yourself, cousin — oh, 
gad!" 

" You would certainly find it much clearer outside," said 
I, beginning to blow up the fire. 

" But then, Cousin Peter, outside one must become a 
target for the yokel eye, and I detest being stared at by 
the uneducated, who, naturally, lack appreciation. On 
the whole, I prefer the smoke, though it chokes one most 
infernally. Where may one venture to sit here? " I 
tendered him the stool, but he shook his head, and, cross- 
ing to the anvil, flicked it daintily with his handkerchief 
and sat down, dangling his leg. 



In which I Meet my Cousin 451 

cc Ton my soul ! " said he, eyeing me languidly through 
his glass again, " 'pon my soul ! you are damnably like 
me, you laiow, in features." 

" Damnably ! " I nodded. 

He glanced at me sharply, and laughed. 

" My man, a creature of the name of Parks," said he, 
swinging his spurred boot to and fro, " led me to suppose 
that I should meet a person here — a blacksmith fellow — " 

" Your man Parks informed you correctly," I nodded ; 
" what can I do for you ? " 

" The devil ! " exclaimed Sir Maurice, shaking his head ; 
" but no — you are, as I gather, somewhat eccentric, but 
even you would never take such a desperate step as to — 
to—" 

" — become a blacksmith fellow?" I put in. 

"Precisely!" 

" Alas, Sir Maurice, I blush to say that rather than 
become an unprincipled adventurer living on my wits, or 
a mean-spirited hanger-on fawning upon acquaintances for 
a livelihood, or doing anything rather than soil my hands 
with honest toil, I became a blacksmith fellow some four 
or five months ago." 

" Really it is most distressing to observe to what depths 
Virtue may drag a man ! — you are a very monster of pro- 
bity and rectitude ! " exclaimed Sir Maurice ; " indeed I am 
astonished! you manifested not only shocking bad judg- 
ment, but a most deplorable lack of thought (Virtue is 
damnably selfish as a rule) — really, it is quite disconcert- 
ing to find one's self first cousin to a blacksmith — " 

" — fellow!" I added. 

"Fellow!" nodded Sir Maurice. "Oh, the devil! to 
think of my worthy cousin reduced to the necessity of 
laboring with hammer and saw — " 

" Not a saw," I put in. 

" We will say, chisel, then — a Vibart with hammer 
and chisel — deuce take me ! Most distressing ! and, you 
will pardon my saying so, you do not seem to thrive on 
hammers and chisels; no one could say you looked bloom- 



452 The Broad Highway 

ing, or even flourishing like the young bay tree (which is, 
I fancy, an Eastern expression)." 

" Sir," said I, " may I remind you that I have work to 
do?" 

" A deuced interesting place though, this," he smiled, 
staring round imperturbably through his glass ; " so — er 

— so devilish grimy and smutty and gritty — quite a num- 
ber of horseshoes, too. D' ye know, cousin, I never before 
remarked what a number of holes there are in a horseshoe 

— but live and learn ! " Here he paused to inhale a pinch 
of snuff, very daintily, from a jewelled box. " It is a 
strange thing," he pursued, as he dusted his fingers on 
his handkerchief, " a very strange thing that, being cousins, 
we have never met till now — especially as I have heard 
so very much about you." 

" Pray," said I, " pray how should you hear about one 
so very insignificant as myself? " 

" Oh, I have heard of good Cousin Peter since I was an 
imp of a boy ! " he smiled. " Cousin Peter was my chart 
whereby to steer through the shoals of boyish mischief 
into the haven of our Uncle George's good graces. Oh, I 
have heard over much of you, cousin, from dear, kind, 
well-meaning relatives and friends — damn 'em ! They 
rang your praises in my ears, morning, noon, and night. 
And why? — simply that I might come to surpass you in 
virtue, learning, wit, and appearance, and so win our Uncle 
George's regard, and, incidentally, his legacy. But I was 
a young demon, romping with the grooms in the stable, 
while you were a young angel in nankeens, passing studious 
hours with your books. When I was a scapegrace at 
Harrow, you were winning golden opinions at Eton ; when 
you were an 6 honors ' man at Oxford, I was ' rusticated ' 
at Cambridge. Naturally enough, perhaps, I grew sick 
of the name of Peter (and, indeed, it smacks damnably of 
fish, don't you think?) — you, or your name, crossed me 
at every turn. If it was n't for Cousin Peter, I was heir 
to ten thousand a year; but good Cousin Peter was so 
fond of Uncle George, and Uncle George was so fond of 



In which I Meet my Cousin 453 

good Cousin Peter, that Maurice might go hang for a 
graceless dog and be damned to him ! " 

" You have my deepest sympathy and apologies ! " said I. 

" Still, I have sometimes been curious to meet worthy 
Cousin Peter, and it is rather surprising that I have never 
done so." 

" On the contrary — "I began, but his laugh stopped 
me. 

" Ah, to be sure ! " he nodded, " our ways have lain 
widely separate hitherto — you, a scholar, treading the 
difficult path of learning ; I — oh, egad ! a terrible fel- 
low! a mauvais sujet! a sad, sad dog! But after all, 
cousin, when one comes to look at you to-day, you might 
stand for a terrible example of Virtue run riot — a dis- 
tressing spectacle of dutiful respect and good precedent 
cut off with a shilling. Really, it is horrifying to observe 
to what depths Virtue may plunge an otherwise well- 
balanced individual. Little dreamed those dear, kind, well- 
meaning relatives and friends — damn 'em ! that while the 
wilful Maurice lived on, continually getting into hot water 
and out again, up to his eyes in debt, and pretty well es- 
teemed, the virtuous pattern Peter would descend to a 
hammer and saw — I should say, chisel — in a very grimy 
place where he is, it seems, the presiding genius. Indeed, 
this first meeting of ours, under these circumstances, is 
somewhat dramatic, as it should be." 

" And yet, we have met before," said I, " and the cir- 
cumstances were then even more dramatic, perhaps, — we 
met in a tempest, sir." 

" Ha ! " he exclaimed, dwelling on the word, and speak- 
ing very slowly, " a tempest, cousin ? " 

" There was much wind and rain, and it was very dark." 

" Dark, cousin ? " 

" But I saw your face very plainly as you lay on your 
back, sir, by the aid of a Postilion's lanthorn, and was 
greatly struck by our mutual resemblance." Sir Maurice 
raised his glass and looked at me, and, as he looked, smiled, 
but he could not hide the sudden, passionate quiver of his 



454 The Broad Highway 

thin nostrils, or the gleam of the eyes beneath their lan- 
guid lids. He rose slowly and paced to the door ; when he 
came back again, he was laughing softly, but still he could 
not hide the quiver of his nostrils, or the gleam of the eyes 
beneath their languid lids. 

" So — it was — you? " he murmured, with a pause be- 
tween the words. " Oh, was ever anything so damnably 
contrary ! To think that I should hunt her into your very 
arms ! To think that of all men in the world it should be 
you to play the squire of dames ! " And he laughed again, 
but, as he did so, the stout riding-whip snapped in his hands 
like a straw. He glanced down at the broken pieces, and 
from them to me. " You see, I am rather strong in the 
hands, cousin," said he, shaking his head, " but I was not 
— - quite strong enough, last time we met, though, to be 
sure, as you say, it was very dark. Had I known it was 
worthy Cousin Peter's throat I grasped, I think I might 
have squeezed it just — a little — tighter." 

" Sir," said I, shaking my head, " I really don't think 
you could have done it." 

" Yes," he sighed, tossing his broken whip into a corner. 
" Yes, I think so — you see, I mistook you for merely an 
interfering country bumpkin — " 

" Yes," I nodded, " while I, on the other hand, took you 
for a fine gentleman nobly intent on the ruin of an unfor- 
tunate, friendless girl, whose poverty would seem to make 
her an easy victim — " 

" In which it appears you were as much mistaken as I, 
Cousin Peter." Here he glanced at me with a sudden 
keenness. 

"Indeed?" 

" Why, surely," said he, " surely you must know — " 
He paused to flick a speck of soot from his knee, and then 
continued : " Did she tell you nothing of — herself? " 

" Very little beside her name." 

" Ah ! she told you her name, then ? " 

" Yes, she told me her name." 

"Well, cousin?" 






In which I Meet my Cousin 455 

" Well, sir ? " We had both risen, and now fronted each 
other across the anvil, Sir Maurice debonair and smiling, 
while I stood frowning and gloomy. 

" Come," said I at last, " let us understand each other 
once for all. You tell me that you have always looked upon 
me as your rival for our uncle's good graces — I never was. 
You have deceived yourself into believing that because I 
was his ward that alone augmented my chances of becom- 
ing the heir; it never did. He saw me as seldom as pos- 
sible, and, if he ever troubled his head about either of 
us, it would seem that he favored you. I tell you I never 
was your rival in the past, and never shall be in the 
future." 

" Meaning, cousin ? " 

" Meaning, sir, in regard to either the legacy or the 
Lady Sophia Sefton. I was never fond enough of money 
to marry for it. I have never seen this lady, nor 80 I pro-* 
pose te, thus, so far as I am concerned, you are free to 
win her and the fortune as soon as you will ; I, as you see, 
prefer horseshoes." 

" And what," said Sir Maurice, flicking a speck of soot 
from his cuff, and immediately looking at me again, " what 
of Charmian? " 

" I don't know," I answered, " nor should I be likely to 
tell you, if I did ; wherever she may be she is safe, I trust, 
and beyond your reach — " 

" No," he broke in, " she will never be beyond my reach 
until she is dead — or I am — perhaps not even then, 
and I shall fmd her again, sooner or later, depend upon it 
— yes, you 1 lay depend upon that ! " 

" Cousin Maurice," said I, reaching out my hand to him, 
" wherever she may be, she is alone and unprotected — 
pursue her no farther. Go back to London, marry your 
Lady Sefton, inherit your fortune, but leave Charmian 
Brown in peace." 

" Ar d pray," said he, frowning suddenly, " whence this 
solicitude on her behalf? What is she to you — this Char- 
mian Brown? " 



45 6 The Broad Highway 

" Nothing," I answered hurriedly, " nothing at all, God 
knows — nor ever can be — " Sir Maurice leaned sud- 
denly forward, and, catching me by the shoulder, peered 
into my face. 

" By Heaven ! " he exclaimed, " the fellow — actually — 
loves her ! " 

"Well?" said I, meeting his look, "why not? Yes, I 
love her." A very fury of rage seemed suddenly to pos- 
sess him, the languid, smiling gentleman became a devil 
with vicious eyes and evil, snarling mouth, whose fingers 
sank into my flesh as he swung me back and forth in a 
powerful grip. 

" You love her ? — you ? — you ? " he panted. 

" Yes," I answered, flinging him off so that he stag- 
gered ; " yes — yes ! I — who fought for her once, and 
am willing — most willing, to do so again, now or at any 
other time, for, though I hold no hope of winning her — 
ever — yet I can serve her still, and protect her from the 
pollution of your presence," and I clenched my fists. 

He stood poised as though about to spring at me, and 
I saw his knuckles gleam whiter than the laces above them, 
but, all at once, he laughed lightly, easily as ever. 

" A very perfect, gentle knight ! " he murmured, " sans 
peur et sans reproche — though somewhat grimy and in 
a leather apron. Chivalry kneeling amid hammers and 
horseshoes, worshiping Her with a reverence distant and 
lowly! How like you, worthy cousin, how very like you, 
and how affecting ! But " — and here his 1 nostrils quiv- 
ered again — " but I tell you — she is mine — mine, and 
always has been, and no man living shall come between us 
— no, by God!" 

" That," said I, " that remains to be seen ! " 

« Ha? " 

M Though, indeed, I think she is safe from you while 
I live." 

" But then, Cousin Peter, life is a very uncertain thing 
at best," he returned, glancing at me beneath his diwping 

lids. 



In which I Meet my Cousin 457 

" Yes," I nodded, " it is sometimes a blessing to remem- 
ber that." 

Sir Maurice strolled to the door, and, being there, 
paused, and looked back over his shoulder. 

" I go to find Charmian," said he, " and I shall find 
her — sooner or later, and, when I do, should you take it 
upon yourself to — come between us again, or presume to 
interfere again, I shall — kill you, worthy cousin, without 
the least compunction. If you think this sufficient warning 
— act upon it, if not — " He shrugged his shoulders 
significantly. " Farewell, good and worthy Cousin Peter, 
farewell! — or shall we say — * au revoir '? " 



CHAPTER XXXIX 

HOW I WENT DOWN INTO THE SHADOWS 

" Peter," said George, one evening, turning ^ko me with 
the troubled look I had seen so often on his face of late, 
" what be wrong wi' you, my chap ? You be growing paler 
every day. Oh, Peter! you be like a man as is dyin' by 
inches — if 't is any o' my doin' — " 

" Nonsense, George ! " I broke in with sudden asperity, 
" I am well enough ! " 

" Yet I 've seen your 'ands fall a-trembling sometimes, 
Peter — all at once. An' you missed your stroke yester- 
day — come square down on th' anvil — you can't ha' 
forgot?" 

" I remember," I muttered ; " I remember." 

" An' twice again to-day. An' you be silent, Peter, an' 
don't seem to 'ear when spoke to, an' short in your temper 
— oh, you bean't the man you was. I 've see it a-comin' 
on you more an' more. Oh, man, Peter ! " he cried, turn- 
ing his back upon me suddenly, " you as I 'd let walk over 
me — you as I 'd be cut in pieces for — if it be me as 
done it — " 

" No, no, George — it was n't you — of course not. If 
I am a little strange it is probably due to lack of sleep, 
nothing more." 

" Ye see, Peter, I tried so 'ard to kill 'ee, an' you said 
yourself as I come nigh doin' it — " 

" But then, you did n't quite manage it," I cried harshly 
— " would to God you had ; as it is, I am alive, and 
there 's an end of it." 

" 'T were a woundy blow I give 'ee — that last one ! 



Down into the Shadows 459 

I '11 never forget the look o' your face as you went down. 
Oh, Peter ! you 've never been the same since — it be all 
my doin' — I know it, I know it," and, sinking upon the 
Ancient's stool in the corner, Black George covered his 
face. 

" Never think of it, George," I said, laying my arm 
across his heaving shoulders ; " that is all over and done 
with, dear fellow, and I would not have it otherwise, since 
it gained me your friendship. I am all right, well and 
strong; it is only sleep that I need, George, only sleep." 

Upon the still evening air rose the sharp tap, tap of 
the Ancient's stick, whereat up started the smith, and, 
coming to the forge, began raking out the fire with great 
dust and clatter, as the old man hobbled up, saluting us 
cheerily as he came. 

" Lord ! " he exclaimed, pausing in the doorway to lean 
upon his stick and glance from one to the other of us with 
his quick, bright eyes. "Lord! theer bean't two other 
such fine, up-standin', likely-lookin' chaps in all the South 
Country as you two chaps be — no, nor such smiths ! it 
du warm my old 'eart to look at 'ee. Puts me in mind o' 
what I were myself — ages an' ages ago. I were n't quite 
so tall as Jarge, p'r'aps, by about — say 'alf-a-inch, but 
then, I were wider — wider, ah ! a sight wider in the shoul- 
der, an' so strong as — four bulls ! an' wi' eyes big an' 
sharp an' piercin' — like Peter's, only Peter 's bean't quite 
so sharp, no, nor yet so piercin' — an' that minds me as 
I 've got noos for 'ee, Peter." 

" What news ? " said I, turning. 

" S'prisin' noos it be — ah ! an' 'stonishin' tu. But first 
of all, Peter, I wants to ax 'ee a question." 

"What is it, Ancient?" 

" Why, it be this, Peter," said the old man, hobbling 
nearer, and peering up into my face, " ever since the time 
as I went an' found ye, I 've thought as theer was sum- 
m'at strange about 'ee, what wi' your soft voice an' gentle 
ways ; an' it came on me all at once — about three o' the 
clock 's arternoon, as you might be a dook — in disguise, 



460 The Broad Highway 

Peter. Come now, be ye a dook or bean't ye — yes or no, 
Peter? " and he fixed me with his eye. 

" No, Ancient," I answered, smiling ; " I 'm no duke." 

" Ah well ! — a earl, then? " 

" Nor an earl." 

"A barrynet, p'r'aps? " 

" Not even a baronet." 

" Ah ! " said the old man, eyeing me doubtfully, " I Ve 
often thought as you might be one or t' other of 'em — 
'specially since 'bout three o' the clock 's arternoon." 

"Why so?" 

" Why, that 's the p'int — that 's the very noos as I 've 
got to tell 'ee," chuckled the Ancient, as he seated himself 
in the corner. " You must know, then," he began, with 
an impressive rap on the lid of his snuff-box, " 'bout three 
o'clock 's arternoon I were sittin' on the stile by Simon's 
five-acre field when along the road comes a lady, 'an'some 
an' proud-looking, an' as fine as fine could be, a-ridin' of 
a 'orse, an' wi' a servant ridin' another 'orse be'ind 'er. 
As she comes up she gives me a look out o' 'er eyes, soft 
they was, an' dark, an' up I gets to touch my 'at. All at 
once she smiles at me, an' 'er smile were as sweet an' gentle 
as 'er eyes ; an' she pulls up 'er 'orse. ' W'y, you must 
be the Ancient ! ' says she. 6 W'y, so Peter calls me, my 
leddy,' says I. 'An' 'ow is Peter?' she says, quick-like; 
' 'ow is Peter ? ' says she. ' Fine an' 'earty,' says I ; ' eats 
well an' sleeps sound,' says I ; ' 'is arms is strong an' 'is 
legs is strong, an' 'e are n't af eared o' nobody — like a 
young lion be Peter,' says I. Now, while I 'm a-sayin' 
this, she looks at me, soft an' thoughtful-like, an' takes 
out a little book an' begins to write in it, a-wrinklin' 'er 
pretty black brows over it an' a-shakin' 'er 'ead to 'erself. 
An' presently she tears out what she 's been a-writin' an' 
gives it to me. ' Will you give this to Peter for me? ' says 
she. 6 That I will, my leddy ! ' says I. ' Thank 'ee ! ' says 
she, smilin' again, an' 'oldin' out 'er w'ite 'an' to me, which 
I kisses. ' Indeed ! ' says she, ( I understand now why Peter 
is so fond of you. I think I could be very fond of 'ee tu ! ' 



Down into the Shadows 461 

says she. An' so she turns 'er 'orse, an' the servant 'e 
turns 'is an' off they go ; an' 'ere, Peter — 'ere be the 
letter." Saying which, the Ancient took a slip of paper 
from the cavernous interior of his hat and tendered it 
to me. 

With my head in a whirl, I crossed to the door, and 
leaned there awhile, staring sightlessly out into the sum- 
mer evening ; for it seemed that in this little slip of paper 
lay that which meant life or death to me; so, for a long 
minute I leaned there, fearing to learn my fate. Then I 
opened the little folded square of paper, and, holding it 
before my eyes, read: 

" Charmian Brown presents " (This scratched out.) 
" While you busied yourself forging horseshoes your 
cousin, Sir Maurice, sought and found me. I do not 
love him, but — Charmian. 

"Farewell" (This also scored out.) 

Again I stared before me with unseeing eyes, but my 
hands no longer trembled, nor did I fear any more ; the 
prisoner had received his sentence, and suspense was at 
an end. 

And, all at once, I laughed, and tore the paper across, 
and laughed and laughed, till George and the Ancient 
came to stare at me. 

" Don't 'ee ! " cried the old man ; " don't 'ee, Peter — 
you be like a corp' laughin' ; don't 'ee ! " But the laugh 
still shook me while I tore and tore at the paper, and so 
let the pieces drop and flutter from my fingers. 

" There ! " said I, " there goes a fool's dream ! See how 
it scatters — a little here, a little there ; but, so long as 
this world lasts, these pieces shall never come together 
again." So saying, I set off along the road, looking neither 
to right nor left. But, when I had gone some distance, 
I found that George walked beside me, and he was very 
silent as he walked, and I saw the trouble was back in his 
eyes again. 



462 The Broad Highway 

" George," said I, stopping, " why do you follow me? " 

" I don't follow 'ee, Peter," he answered ; " I be only 
wishful to walk wi' you a ways." 

u I 'm in no mood for company, George." 

" Well, I bean't company, Peter — your friend, I be," 
he said doggedly, and without looking at me. 

" Yes," said I ; " yes, my good and trusty friend." 

" Peter," he cried suddenly, laying his hand upon my 
shoulder, " don't go back to that theer ghashly 'Oiler 
to-night — " 

" It is the only place in the world for me — to-night, 
George." And so we went on again, side by side, through 
the evening, and spoke no more until we had come to the 
parting of the ways. 

Down in the Hollow the shadows lay black and heavy, 
and I saw George shiver as he looked. 

" Good-by ! " said I, clasping his hand ; " good-by, 
George ! " 

" Why do 'ee say good-by ? " 

" Because I am going away." 

" Goin' away, Peter — but wheer ? " 

" God knows ! " I answered, " but, wherever it be, I shall 
carry with me the memory of your kind, true heart — and 
you, I think, will remember me. It is a blessed thing, 
George, to know that, howso far we go, a friend's kind 
thoughts journey on with us, untiring to the end." 

" Oh, Peter, man ! don't go for to leave me — " 

" To part is our human lot, George, and as well now 
as later — good-by ! " 

" No, no ! " he cried, throwing his arm about me, " not 
down theer — it be so deadly an' lonely down theer in the 
darkness. Come back wi' me — just for to-night." But 
I broke from his detaining hand, and plunged on down 
into the shadows. And, presently, turning my head, I saw 
him yet standing where I had left him, looming gigantic 
upon the sky behind, and with his head sunk upon his 
breast. 

Being come at last to the cottage, I paused, and from 



Down into the Shadows 463 

that place of shadows lifted my gaze to the luminous 
heaven, where were a myriad eyes that seemed to watch 
me with a new meaning, to-night ; wherefore I entered the 
cottage hastily, and, closing the door, barred it behind me. 

Then I turned to peer up at that which showed above 
the door — the rusty staple upon which a man had choked 
his life out sixty and six years ago. And I began, very 
slowly, to loosen the belcher neckerchief about my throat. 

" Peter ! " cried a voice — " Peter ! " and a hand was 
beating upon the door. 



CHAPTER XL 

HOW, IN PLACE OF DEATH, I FOUND THE FULNESS OF 

LIFE 

She came in swiftly, closing the door behind her, found 
and lighted a candle, and, setting it upon the table be- 
tween us, put back the hood of her cloak, and looked at 
me, while I stood mute before her, abashed by the accu- 
sation of her eyes. 

" Coward ! " she said, and, with the word, snatched 
the neckerchief from my grasp, and, casting it upon 
the floor, set her foot upon it. " Coward ! " said she 
again. 

" Yes," I muttered ; " yes, I was lost — in a great dark- 
ness, and full of a horror of coming nights and days, 
and so — I would have run away from it all — like a 
coward — " 

" Oh, hateful — hateful ! " she cried, and covered her 
face as from some horror. 

" Indeed, you cannot despise me more than I do my- 
self," said I, " now, or ever ; I am a failure in all things, 
except, perhaps, the making of horseshoes — and this 
world has no place for failures — and as for horse- 
shoes — " 

" Fool," she whispered. " Oh, fool that I dreamed so 
wise! Oh, coward that seemed so brave and strong! Oh, 
man that was so gloriously young and unspoiled ! — that 
it should end here — that it should come to this." And, 
though she kept her face hidden, I knew that she was 
weeping. " A woman's love transforms the man till she 



I Find the Fulness of Life 465 

sees him, not as he is, but as her heart would have him 
be; the dross becomes pure gold, and she believes and 
believes until — one day her heart breaks — " 
" Charmian ! — what — what do you mean? " 
"Oh, are you still so blind? Must I tell you?" she 
cried, lifting her head proudly. " Why did I live beside 
you here in the wilderness ? Why did I work for you — 
contrive for you — and seek to make this desolation a 
home for you? Often my heart cried out its secret to you 

— but you never heard; often it trembled in my voice, 
looked at you from my eyes — but you never guessed — 
Oh, blind ! blind ! And you drove me from you with shame- 
ful words — but — oh ! — I came back to you. And now 

— I know you for but common clay, after all, and — even 
yet — " She stopped, suddenly, and once more hid her 
face from me in her hands. 

" And — even yet, Charmian ? " I whispered. 

Very still she stood, with her face bowed upon her hands, 
but she could not hide from me the swift rise and fall of 
her bosom. 

" Speak — oh, Charmian, speak ! " 

" I am so weak — so weak ! " she whispered ; " I hate 
myself." 

" Charmian!" I cried " — oh, Charmian!" and seized her 
hands, and, despite her resistance, drew her into my arms, 
and, clasping her close, forced her to look at me. " And 
even yet ? — what more — what more — tell me." But, 
lying back across my arm, she held me off with both 
hands. 

" Don't ! " she cried ; " don't — you shame me — let 
me go." 

" God knows I am all unworthy, Charmian, and so low 
in my abasement that to touch you is presumption, but — 
oh, woman whom I have loved from the first, and shall, to 
the end, have you stooped in your infinite mercy, to lift 
me from these depths — is it a new life you offer me — 
was it for this you came to-night? " 

" Let me go — oh, Peter ! — let me go." 



466 The Broad Highway 

" Why — why did yon come? " 

" Loose me ! " 

" Why did you come? " 

" To meet — Sir Maurice Vibart." 

"To meet Sir Maurice?" I repeated dully — "Sir 
Maurice?" And in that moment she broke from me, and 
stood with her head thrown back, and her eyes very bright, 
as though defying me. But I remained where I was, my 
arms hanging. 

" He was to meet me here — at nine o'clock." 

" Oh, Charmian," I whispered, " are all women so cruel 
as you, I wonder? " And, turning my back upon her, I 
leaned above the mantel, staring down at the long-dead 
ashes on the hearth. 

But, standing there, I heard a footstep outside, and 
swung round with clenched fists, yet Charmian was quicker, 
and, as the door opened and Sir Maurice entered, she was 
between us. 

He stood upon the threshold, dazzled a little by the 
light, but smiling, graceful, debonair, and point-device 
as ever. Indeed, his very presence seemed to make the 
mean room the meaner by contrast, and, as he bent to kiss 
her hand, I became acutely conscious of my own rough 
person, my worn and shabby clothes, and of my hands, 
coarsened and grimed by labor ; wherefore my frown grew 
the blacker and I clenched my fists the tighter. 

" I lost my way, Charmian," he began, " but, though 
late, I am none the less welcome, I trust? Ah? — you 
frown, Cousin Peter? Quite a ghoulish spot this, at night 
— you probably find it most congenial, good cousin Timon 
of Athens — indeed, cousin, you are very like Timon of 
Athens — " And he laughed so that I, finding my pipe 
upon the mantelshelf, began to turn it aimlessly round and 
round in my twitching fingers. 

"You have already met, then ?" inquired Charmian, 
glancing from one to the other of us. 

"We had that mutual pleasure nearly a week ago," 
nodded Sir Maurice, " when we agreed to — disagree, as 



I Find the Fulness of Life 467 

we always have done, and shall do — with the result that 
we find each other agreeably disagreeable." 

" I had hoped that you might be friends." 

" My dear Charmian — I wonder at you ! " he sighed, 
" so unreasonable. Would you have us contravene the 
established order of things? It was preordained that 
Cousin Peter should scowl at me (precisely as he is doing), 
and that I should shrug my shoulders, thus, at Cousin 
Peter — a little hate with, say, a dash of contempt, give 
a zest to that dish of conglomerate vapidity which we call 
Life, and make it almost palatable. 

" But I am not here on Cousin Peter's account," he 
went on, drawing a step nearer to her, " at this moment 
I heartily wish him — among his hammers and chisels — 
I have come for you, Charmian, because I love you. I have 
sought you patiently until I found you — and I will never 
forego you so long as life lasts — but you know all this." 

" Yes, I know all this." 

" I have been very patient, Charmian, submitting to 
your whims and fancies — but, through it all, I knew, and 
in your woman's heart — you knew, that you must yield 
at last — that the chase must end — some day ; well — let 
)t be to-night — my chaise is waiting — " 

" When I ran away from you, in the storm, Sir Maurice, 
I told you, once and for all, that I hated you. Have you 
forgotten? — hated you ! — always and ever ! and tried to 
— kiU you — " 

" Oh, Charmian ! I have known such hate transfigured 
into love, before now — such love as is only worth the 
winning. And you are mine — you always were — from 
the first moment that our eyes met. Come, my chaise is 
waiting ; in a few hours we can be in London, or Dover — " 

"No — never!" 

" Never is a long time, Charmian — but I am at your 
service — what is your will? " 

" I shall remain — here." 

" Here ? In the wilderness ? " 

" With my — husband." 



468 The Broad Highway 

"Your — husband?" 

" I am going to marry your cousin — Peter Vibart." 

The pipe slipped from my fingers and shivered to pieces 
on the floor, and in that same fraction of time Sir Maurice 
had turned and leapt towards me ; but as he came I struck 
him twice, with left and right, and he staggered backwards 
to the wall. He stood for a moment, with his head stooped 
upon his hands. When he looked up his face was dead 
white, and with a smear of blood upon it that seemed to 
accentuate its pallor; but his voice came smooth and un- 
ruffled as ever. 

" The Mind Feminine is given to change," said he softly, 
" and — I shall return — yes, I shall come back. Smile, 
madam ! Triumph, cousin ! But I shall come between you 
yet — I tell you, I '11 come between you — living or — > 
dead!" 

And so he turned, and was gone — into the shadows. 

But as for me, I sat down, and, leaning my chin in my 
hand, stared down at the broken fragments of my pipe. 

"Peter?" 

" You are safe now," said I, without looking up, " he is 
gone — but, oh, Charmian ! was there no other way — ? " 

She was down beside me on her knees, had taken my 
hand, rough and grimy as it was, and pressed it to her 
lips, and so had drawn it about her neck, holding it there, 
and with her face hidden in my breast. 

" Oh — strong man that is so weak ! " she whispered. 
" Oh — grave philosopher that is so foolish ! Oh — lonely 
boy that is so helpless ! Oh, Peter Vibart — my Peter ! " 

" Charmian," said I, trembling, " what does it mean? " 

" It means, Peter — " 

"Yes?" 

" That — the — Humble Person — " 

"Yes?" 

" Will — marry you — whenever you will — if *— -■ " 

"Yes?" 

" If you will — only — ask her." 



CHAPTER XLI 



LIGHT AND SHADOW 



Now, as the little Preacher closed his book, the sun rose 
up, filling the world about us with his glory. 

And looking into the eyes of my wife, it seemed that a 
veil was lifted, for a moment, there, and I read that which 
her lips might never tell; and there, also, were joy and 
shame and a deep happiness. 

" See," said the little Preacher, smiling upon us, " it 
Is day and a very glorious one; already a thousand little 
choristers of God's great cathedral have begun to chant 
your marriage hymn. Go forth together, Man and Wife, 
upon this great wide road that we call Life; go forth 
together, made strong in Faith, and brave with Hope, 
and the memory of Him who walked these ways before you ; 
who joyed and sorrowed and suffered and endured all things 
— even as we must. Go forth together, and may His 
blessing abide with you, and the ' peace that passeth 
understanding.' " 

And so we turned together, side by side, and left him 
standing amid his roses. 

Silently we went together, homewards, through the dewy 
morning, with a soft, green carpet underfoot, and leafy 
arches overhead, where trees bent to whisper benedictions, 
and shook down jewels from their dewy leaves upon us as 
we passed; by merry brooks that laughed and chattered, 
and gurgled of love and happiness, while over all rose the 
swelling chorus of the birds. Surely never had they piped 
so gladly in this glad world before — not even for the 
gentle Spenser, though he says: 



470 The Broad Highway 

M Taere was ncne of them tbat feigned 
To sing, for each of them him pained ; 
To find out merry, crafty notes 
They ne spared not their throats." 

And being come, at length, to the Hollow, Charmian 
must needs pause beside the pool among the willows, to 
view herself in the pellucid water. And in this mirror our 
eyes met, and lo ! of a sudden, her lashes drooped, and 
she turned her head aside. 

" Don't, Peter ! " she whispered ; " don't look at me so." 

" How may I help it when you are so beautiful? " 

And, because of my eyes, she would have fled from me, 
but I caught her in my arms, and there, amid the leaves, 
despite the jealous babble of the brook, for the second 
time in my life, her lips met mine. And, gazing yet into 
her eyes, I told her how, in this shady bower, I had once 
watched her weaving leaves into her hair, and heard her 
talk to her reflection — and so — had stolen away, for 
fear of her beauty. 

"Fear, Peter?" 

" We were so far out of the world, and — I longed to 
kiss you." 

" And did n't, Peter." 

" And did n't, Charmian, because we were so very far 
from the world, and because you were so very much alone, 
and — " 

" And because, Peter, because you are a gentle man and 
strong, as the old locket says. And do you remember," 
she went on hurriedly, laying her cool, restraining fingers 
on my eager lips, " how I found you wearing that locket, 
and how you blundered and stammered over it, and pre- 
tended to read your Homer? " 

" And how you sang, to prevent me? " 

" And how gravely you reproved me ? " 

" And how you called me a * creature ' ? " 

" And how you deserved it, sir — and grew more help- 
less and ill at ease than ever, and how — just to flatter my 
vanity — you told me I had ' glorious hair '? " 



Light and Shadow 471 

" And so you have," said I, kissing a curl at her temple ; 
" when you unbind it, my Charmian, it will cover you — •. 
like a mantle." 

Now when I said this, for some reason she glanced up 
at me, sudden and shy, and blushed and slipped from my 
arms, and fled up the path like a nymph. 

So we presently entered the cottage, flushed and pant- 
ing, and laughing for sheer happiness. And now she 
rolled up her sleeves, and set about preparing breakfast, 
laughing my assistance to scorn, but growing mightily 
indignant when I would kiss her, yet blushing and yield- 
ing, nevertheless. And while she bustled to and fro (keep- 
ing well out of reach of my arm), she began to sing in 
her soft voice to herself: 

" ' In Scarlet town, where I was born, 
There was a fair maid dwellin', 
Made every youth cry Well-a-way 1 
Her name was Barbara Allen.' " 

" Oh, Charmian ! how wonderful you are ! " 

" ' All in the merry month of May, 

When green buds they were swellin' — ' " 

" Surely no woman ever had such beautiful arms ! so 
round and soft and white, Charmian." She turned upon 
me with a fork held up admonishingly, but, meeting my 
look, her eyes wavered, and up from throat to brow rushed 
a wave of burning crimson. 

" Oh, Peter ! - — you make me — almost — afraid of 
you," she whispered, and hid her face against my 
shoulder. 

" Are you content to have married such a very poor 
man — to be the wife of a village blacksmith? " 

" Why, Peter — in all the world there never was such 
another blacksmith as mine, and — and — there ! — the 
kettle is boiling over — " 

"Let it!" saidl. 

" And the bacon — the bacon will burn — let me go, and 
— oh, Peter ! " 



472 The Broad Highway 

So, in due time, we sat down to our solitary wedding 
breakfast; and there were no eyes to speculate upon the 
bride's beauty, to note her changing color, or the glory of 
her eyes ; and no healths were proposed or toasts drunk, 
nor any speeches spoken — except, perhaps by my good 
friend — the brook outside, who, of course, understood 
the situation, and babbled tolerantly of us to the listening 
trees, like the grim old philosopher he was. 

In this solitude we were surely closer together and be- 
longed more fully to each other, for all her looks and 
thoughts were mine, as mine were hers. 

And, as we ate, sometimes talking and sometimes laugh- 
ing (though rarely; one seldom laughs in the wilderness), 
our hands would stray to meet each other across the table, 
and eye would answer eye, while, in the silence, the brook 
would lift its voice to chuckle throaty chuckles and out- 
landish witticisms, such as could only be expected from an 
old reprobate who had grown so in years, and had seen so 
very much of life. At such times Charmian's cheeks would 
flush and her lashes droop — as though (indeed) she were 
versed in the language of brooks. 

So the golden hours slipped by, the sun crept westward, 
and evening stole upon us. 

" This is a very rough place for you," said I, and sighed. 

We were sitting on the bench before the door, and Char- 
mian had laid her folded hands upon my shoulder, and her 
chin upon her hands. And now she echoed my sigh, but 
answered without stirring : 

" It is the dearest place in all the world." 

" And very lonely ! " I pursued. 

" I shall be busy all day long, Peter, and you always 
reach home as evening falls, and then — then — oh ! I 
sha'n't be lonely." 

" But I am such a gloomy fellow at the best of times, 
and very clumsy, Charmian, and something of a failure." 

* 4 And — my husband." 

"Peter! — Peter! — oh, Peter!" I started, and rose 
to my feet. 



Light and Shadow ^473 



" Peter ! — oh, Peter ! " called the voice again, seem- 
ingly from the road, and now I thought it sounded familiar. 

Charmian stole her arms about my neck. 

" I think it is Simon," said I uneasily ; " what can have 
brought him? And he will never venture down into the 
Hollow on account of the ghost ; I must go and see what 
he wants." 

" Yes, Peter," she murmured, but the clasp of her arms 
tightened. 

" What is it? " said I, looking into her troubled eyes. 
" Charmian, you are trembling! — what is it? " 

" I don't know — but oh, Peter ! I feel as if a shadow 
— a black and awful shadow were creeping upon us — 
hiding us from each other. I am very foolish, are n't I? t— « 
and this our wedding-day ! " 

"Peter! Pe-ter!" 

" Come with me, Charmian ; let us go together." 

" No, I must wait — it is woman's destiny — to wait 
i — but I am brave again ; go — see what is wanted." 

I found Simon, sure enough, in the lane, seated in his 
cart, and his face looked squarer and grimmer even than 
usual. 

" Oh, Peter ! " said he, gripping my hand, " it be come 
at last — Gaffer be goin'." 

"Going, Simon?" 

" Dyin', Peter. Fell downstairs 's marnin'. Doctor says 
'e can't last the day out — sinkin' fast, 'e be, an' 'e be axin' 
for 'ee, Peter. ' Wheer be Peter? ' says 'e over an' over 
again ; ' wheer be the Peter as I found of a sunshiny arter- 
noon, down in th' 'aim ted 'Oiler? ' You weren't at work 
's marnin', Peter, so I be come to fetch 'ee — you '11 come 
back wi' me to bid ' good-by ' to the old man? " 

"Yes, I'll come, Simon," I answered; "wait here for 
me." 

Charmian was waiting for me in the cottage, and, as she 
looked up at me, I saw the trouble was back in her eyes 
again. 

" You must s — go — leave me? " she inquired. 



474 The Broad Highway 

" For a little while." 

" Yes — I — I felt it," she said, with a pitiful little 
smile. 

" The Ancient is dying," said I. Now, as I spoke, my 
eyes encountered the staple above the door, wherefore, 
mounting upon a chair, I seized and shook it. And lo ! the 
rusty iron snapped off in my fingers — like glass, and I 
slipped it into my pocket. 

" Oh, Peter ! — don't go — don't leave me ! " cried Char- 
mian suddenly, and I saw that her face was very pale, and 
that she trembled. 

" Charmian ! " said I, and sprang to her side. " Oh, my 
love ! — what is it ? " 

" It is — as though the shadow hung over us — darker 
and more threatening, Peter; as if our happiness were 
at an end ; I seem to hear Maurice's threat — to come 
between us — living or — dead.' I am afraid ! " she whis- 
pered, clinging to me, " I am afraid ! " But, all at once, 
she was calm again, and full of self-reproaches, calling 
herself " weak," and " foolish," and " hysterical " — 
" though, indeed, I was never hysterical before ! " — and 
telling me that I must go — that it was my duty to go to 
the " gentle, dying old man " — urging me to the door, 
almost eagerly, till, being out of the cottage, she must 
needs fall a-trembling once more, and wind her arms about 
my neck, with a great sob. 

" But oh ! — you will come back soon — very soon, 
Peter? And we know that nothing can ever come between 
us again — never again — my husband." And, with 
that blessed word, she drew me down to her lips, and, turn- 
ing, fled into the cottage. 

I went on slowly up the path to meet Simon, and, as I 
went, my heart was heavy, and my mind full of a strange 
foreboding. But I never thought of the omen of the knife 
that had once fallen and quivered in the floor between us. 

" 'T were 'is snuff-box as done it ! " said Simon, staring 
very hard at his horse's ears, as we jogged along the road. 
" 'E were a-goin' upstairs for it, an' slipped, 'e did. 



Light and Shadow 475 

* Simon,' says he, as I lifted of 'im in my arms, 6 Simon,' 
says 'e, quiet like, ' I be done for at last, lad — this poor 
old feyther o' yourn '11 never go a-climbin' up these stairs 
no more,' says 'e — ' never — no — more.' " 

After this Simon fell silent, and I likewise, until we 
reached the village. Before " The Bull " was a group who 
talked with hushed voices and grave faces ; even Old Amos 
grinned no more. 

The old man lay in his great four-post bed, propped up 
with pillows, and with Prue beside him, to smooth his silver 
hair with tender fingers, and Black George towering in the 
shade of the bed-curtains, like a grieving giant. 

" 'Ere I be, Peter," said the old man, beckoning me 
feebly with his hand, " 'ere I be — at the partin' o' the 
ways, an' wi' summ'at gone wrong wi' my innards ! When 
a man gets so old as I be, 'is innards be like glass, Peter, 
like glass — an' apt to fly all to pieces if 'e goes a-slippin' 
an' a-slidin' downstairs, like me." 

" Are you in pain ? " I asked, clasping his shrivelled 
hand. 

" Jest a twinge, now an' then, Peter — but — Lord ' 
that bean't nothin' to a man the likes o' me — Peter — " 

" You always were so hale and hearty," I nodded, giv- 
ing him the usual opening he had waited for. 

" Ay, so strong as a bull, that I were ! like a lion in my 
youth — Black Jarge were nought to me — a cart-'orse I 
were." 

" Yes," said I, " yes," and stooped my head lower over 
the feeble old hand. 

" But arter all, Peter, bulls pass away, an' lions, an' 
cart-'orses lose their teeth, an' gets wore out, for ' all flesh 
is grass ' — but iron 's iron, bean't it, Peter — rusts it do, 
but 't is iron all the same, an' lasts a man out — even such 
a 'earty chap as I were? " 

" Sometimes," said I, without looking up. 

" An' I be very old an' tired, Peter ; my 'eart be all 
wore out wi' beatin' an' beatin' all these years — 't is a 
wonder as it did n't stop afore now — but a — a — stapil, 



476 The Broad Highway 

Peter, don't 'ave no 'eart to go a-beatin' an' a-wearin' of 
itself away? " 

" No, Ancient." 

" So 'ere be I, a-standin' in the Valley o' the Shadow, 
an' waitin' for God's Angel to take my 'and for to show 
me the way. 'T is a darksome road, Peter, but I bean't 
afeared, an' there be a light beyond Jordan-water. No, I 
are n't afeared to meet the God as made me, for ' the Lord 
is merciful — and very kind,' an' I don't s'pose as 'E '11 be 
very 'ard on a old, old man as did 'is best, an' wi' a 'eart 
all tired an' wore away wi' beatin' — I be ready, ^ter — 
only — " 

"Yes, Ancient?" 

" Oh, Peter ! - — it be that theer old stapil — as '11 go on 
rustin' away an' rustin' away arter the old man as watched 
it so is laid in the earth, an' forgot about — " 

" No," said I, without looking up, but slipping my hand 
into my pocket ; " no, Ancient — " 

" Peter — Oh, Peter ! — do 'ee mean — ? " 

" I mean that, although it had no heart, the staple was 
tired and worn out — just as you are, and so I brought 
it to you," and I slipped the rusty bit of iron into the old 
man's trembling palm. 

" O Lord — ! " he began in a fervent voice, " dear 
Lord ! — I got it, Lord — th' owd stapil — I be ready to 
come to Thee, an' j'yful — j'yful! an' for this mercy, 
an' benefit received — blessed be Thy name. Amen ! " 

He lay very quiet for a while, with the broken staple 
clasped to his breast, and his eyes closed. 

" Peter," said he suddenly, " you won't 'ave no one to 
bring you noos no more — why, Peter ! be 'ee cryin' — for 
me ? 'T is true 't were me as found ye, but I did n't think 
as you 'd go to cry tears for me — I be goin' to tak' 
t' owd stapil wi' me, Peter, all along the road — an', 
Peter—" 

"Yes, Ancient?" 

" Be you quite sure as you are n't a dook? " 

" Quite sure." 



Light and Shadow 477 

"Nor a earl?" 

" No, Ancient." 

" Not even a — barrynet? " 

" No, Ancient." 

" Ah, well ! — you be a man, Peter, an' 't is summ'at to 
ha' found a man — that it be." 

And now he feebly beckoned us all nearer. 

" Children," said he, " I be a old an' ancient man — 
I be goin' on — across the river to wait for you — my 
blessin' on ye. It be a dark, dark road, but I 've got t 9 
owd stapil, an' there — be a light beyond — the river." 

So, the Ancient sighed, and crossed the dark River into 
the Land of Light Eternal. 



CHAPTER XLII 

HOW SIR MAURICE KEPT HIS WORD 

Night, with a rising moon, and over all things a great 
quietude, a deep, deep silence. Air, close and heavy, with- 
out a breath to wake the slumbering trees ; an oppressive 
stillness, in which small sounds magnified themselves, and 
seemed disproportionately loud. 

And presently, as I went upon my way, I forgot the old 
man sleeping so peacefully with the rusty staple clasped to 
his shrunken breast, and thought only of the proud woman 
who had given her life into my keeping, and who, hence- 
forth, would walk with me, hand in hand, upon this Broad 
Highway, over rough places, and smooth — even unto the 
end. So I strode on, full of a deep and abiding joy, and 
with heart that throbbed and hands that trembled because 
I knew that she watched and waited for my coming. 

A sound broke upon the stillness — sudden and sharp 
— like the snapping of a stick. I stopped and glanced 
about me — but it had come and gone — lost in the all- 
pervading calm. 

And presently, reaching the leafy path that led steeply 
down into the Hollow, I paused a moment to look about 
me and to listen again; but the deep silence was all un- 
broken, save for the slumberous song of the brook, that 
stole up to me from the shadows, and I wondered idly what 
that sudden sound might have been. So I began to descend 
this leafy path, and went on to meet that which lay waiting 
for me in the shadows. 

It was dark here among the trees, for the moon was low 
&s yet, but, every now and then, she sent a kindly ray 



How Sir Maurice Kept his Word 479 

through some opening amid the leaves, so that as I de- 
scended the path I seemed to be wading through small, 
limpid pools of radiance. 

But all at once I stopped — staring at something which 
lay at the edge of one of these pools — a white claw — a 
hand whose fingers, talon-like, had sunk deep and em- 
bedded themselves in the turf. And, beyond this gleaming 
hand, was an arm, and beyond that again, something that 
bulked across my path, darker than the shadows. 

Running forward, I stood looking down at that which 
lay at my feet — so \erf still ; and stooped suddenly, and 
turned it over that I might see the face ; and, seeing it, 
started back in shuddering horror. For, in those feat- 
ures — hideous with blood, stained and blackened with 
powder, I recognized my cousin — Sir Maurice Vibart. 
Then, remembering the stick that had snapped, I wondered 
no more, but a sudden deadly faintness came upon me so 
that I leaned weakly against a tree near by. 

A rustling of leaves — a shuddering breath, and, though 
I did not raise my head, I knew that Charmian was there. 

" Oh, Peter ! " she whispered, " oh, Peter ! " and that 
was all, but, moved by something in her tone, I glanced up. 
Her eyes were wide and staring — not at me, but at that 
which lay between us — her face was pallid ; even her lips 
had lost their color, and she clasped one hand upon her 
bosom — the other was hidden in the folds of her gown — 
hidden as I remembered to have seen it once before, but 
now it struck me with a horrible significance. Wherefore I 
reached out and caught that hidden hand, and drew the 
weapon from he*- nerveless fingers, holding it where the 
light could play upon it. She started, shivered violently, 
and covered her eyes, while I, looking down at the pistol 
in my hand, saw that it had lately been discharged. 

" He has kept his word ! " she whispered ; " he has kept 
his word ! " 

" Yes, Charmian — he has kept his word ! " 

" Oh, Peter ! " she moaned, and stretched out her hands 
towards me, yet she kept her face turned from that which 



480 The Broad Highway 

lay across the path between us, and her hands were shak- 
ing pitifully. " Peter ? " she cried with a sudden break in 
her voice; but I went on wiping the soot from the pistol- 
barrel with the end of my neckerchief. Then, all at once, 
she was beside me, clasping my arm, and she was pleading 
with me, her words coming in a flood. 

" No, Peter, no — oh, God ! — you do not think it — 
you can't — you must n't. I was alone — waiting for you, 
and the hours passed — and you did n't come — and I was 
nervous and frightened, and full of awful fancies. I 
thought I heard some one — creeping round the cottage. 
Once I thought some one peered in at the lattice, and once 
I thought some one tried the door. And so — because I 
was frightened, Peter, I took that — that, and held it in 
my hand, Peter. And while I sat there — it seemed more 
than ever — that somebody was breathing softly — out- 
side the door. And so, Peter, I could n't bear it any more 

— and opened the lattice — and fired — in the air — I 
swear it was in the air. And I stood there — at the open 
casement — sick with fear, and trying to pray for you — 
because I knew he had come back — to kill you, Peter, and, 
while I prayed, I heard another shot — not close, but 
faint — like the snapping of a twig, Peter — and I ran out 

— and — oh, Peter ! — that is all — but you believe — 
oh ! — you believe, don't you, Peter ? " 

While she spoke, I had slipped the pistol into my 
pocket, and now I held out my hands to her, and drew her 
near, and gazed into the troubled depths of her eyes. 

" Charmian ! " said I, " Charmian — I love you ! and 
God forbid that I should ever doubt you any more." 

So, with a sigh, she sank in my embrace, her arms crept 
about my neck, and our lips met, and clung together. But 
even then — while I looked upon her beauty, while the 
contact of her lips thrilled through me — even then, in 
my mind, I saw the murderous pistol in her hand — as I 
had seen it months ago. Indeed, it almost seemed that she 
divined my thought, for she drew swiftly back, and looked 
up at me with haggard eyes. 



How Sir Maurice Kept his Word 481 

" Peter? " she whispered, " what is it — what is it? " 
" Oh, Charmian ! " said I, over and over again, " t love 
you — I love you." And I kissed her appealing eyes, and 
stayed her questioning lips with my kisses. " I love you 
more than my life — more than honor — more than my 
soul ; and, because I so love you — to-night you must 
leave ma — " 

" Leave you ? — ah no, Peter — no — no, I am your wife 

— I must stay with you — to suffer and share your 
troubles and dangers — it is my right — my privilege. 
Let us go away together, now — anywhere — anywhere, 
only let us be together — my — husband." 

" Don't ! " I cried, " don't ! Do you think it is s« easy 
to remain here without you — to lose you so soon — so 
very soon? If I only loved you a little less! Ah! don't 
you see — before the week is out, my description will be all 
over England; we should be caught, and you would have 
to stand beside me in a court of justice, and face the shame 
of it — " 

" Dear love ! — it would be my pride — my pride, Peter, 
to face them all — to clasp this dear hand in mine — " 

" Never ! " I cried, clenching my fists ; " never ! You 
must leave me; no one must know Charmian Brown ever 
existed — you must go ! " 

" Hush ! " she whispered, clasping me tighter, " listen 

— some one is coming ! " Away to the right, we could hear 
the leaves rustling, as though a strong wind passed 
through them; a light flickered, went out, flickered again, 
and a voice hailed faintly: 

"Hallo!" 

" Come," said Charmian, clasping my hand, " let us go 
and meet him." 

" No, Charmian, no — I must see this man — alone. 
You must leave here, to-night — now. You can catch the 
London Mail at the cross roads. Go to Blackheath — to 
Sir Richard Anstruther — he is my friend — tell him 
everything — " 

She was down at my feet, and had caught my hand to 
her bosom. 



482 The Broad Highway 

" I can't ! " she cried, " I can't go — and leave you here 
alone. I have loved you so — from the very first, and it 
seems that each day my love has grown until it is part of 
me. Oh, Peter ! — don't send me away from you — it will 
kill me, I think — " 

" Better that than the shame of a prison ! " I exclaimed, 
and, while I spoke, I lifted her in my arms. " Oh ! — I am 
proud — proud to have won such a love as yours — — let 
me try to be worthy of it. Good-by, my beloved ! " and so 
I kissed her, and would have turned away, but her arms 
clung about me. 

" Oh, Peter ! " she sobbed, " if you must go — if you 
will go, call me — your wife — just once, Peter." 

The hovering light was much nearer now, and the rustle 
of leaves louder, as I stooped above her cold hands, and 
kissed their trembling fingers. 

" Some day," said I, " some day, if there is a just God 
in heaven, we shall meet again; perhaps soon, perhaps 
late. Until then, let us dream of that glorious, golden 
some day, but now — farewell, oh, beloved wife ! " 

With a broken cry, she drew my head down upon her 
breast, and clasped it there, while her tears mingled with 
her kisses, and so — crying my name, she turned, and was 
lost among the leaves. 



CHAPTER XLIII 

HOW I SET OUT TO FACE MY DESTINY 

The pallid moon shone down pitilessly upon the dead, 
white face that stared up at me through its grime and 
blood, with the same half -tolerant, half-amused contempt 
of me that it had worn in life; the drawn lips seemed to 
mock me, and the clenched fists to defy me still; so that 
I shivered, and turned to watch the oncoming light that 
danced like a will-o'-the-wisp among the shadows. Pres- 
ently it stopped, and a voice hailed once more : 

" Hallo ! " 

" Hallo ! " I called back ; " this way — this way ! " In 
a little while I saw the figure of a man whom I at once 
recognized as the one-time Postilion, bearing the lanthorn 
of a chaise, and, as he approached, it struck me that this 
meeting was very much like our first, save for him who 
lay in the shadows, staring up at me with unwinking 
eyes. 

" So ho ! " exclaimed the Postilion as he came up, rais- 
ing his lanthorn that he might view me the better ; " it 's 
you again, is it ? " 

" Yes," I nodded. 

" Well, I don't like it," he grumbled, " a-meeting of 
each other again like this, in this 'ere ghashly place — no, 
I don't like it — too much like last time to be nat'ral, and, 
as you know, I can't abide onnat'ralness. If I was to ax 
you where my master was, like as not you 'd tell me 'e 
was — " 

" Here ! " said I, and, moving aside, pointed to the 
shadow. 



484 The Broad Highway 

The Postilion stepped nearer, lowering his lanthons, 
then staggered blindly backward. 

" Lord ! " he whimpered, " Lord love me ! " and stood,, 
staring, with dropped jaw. 

" Where is your chaise? " 

" Up yonder — yonder — in the lane," he mumbled, 
his eyes still fixed. 

" Then help me to carry him there." 

" No, no - — I durs n't touch it — I can't — not me — \ 
not me ! " 

" I think you will," said I, and took the pistol from my 
pocket. 

" Ain't one enough for to-night ? " he muttered ; " put 
it away — I '11 come — I '11 do it — put it away." So I 
dropped the weapon back into my pocket while the Pos- 
tilion, shivering violently, stooped with me above the in- 
animate figure, and, with our limp burden between us, we 
staggered and stumbled up the path, and along the lane to 
where stood a light traveling chaise. 

" 'E ain't likely to come to this time, I 'm thinkin' ! " 
said the Postilion, mopping the sweat from his brow and 
grinning with pallid lips, after we had got our burden into 
the vehicle ; " no, 'e ain't likely to wake up no more, nor 
yet ' curse my 'ead off ' — this side o' Jordan." 

u No," I answered, beginning to unwind my neckcloth. 

" Nor it ain't no good to go a-bandagin' and a-bindin' 
of 'im up — like you did last time." 

" No," said I ; " no." And stepping into the chaise, 
I muffled that disfigured face in my neckcloth; having 
done which, I closed the door. 

"What now? " inquired the Postilion. 

" Now you can drive us to Cranbrook." 

" What — be you a-comin' too ? " 

" Yes," I nodded ; " yes, I am coming too." 

" Lord love me ! " he exclaimed, and a moment later 
I heard him chirruping to his horses; the whip cracked 
and the chaise lurched forward. Whether he had some 
wild notion that I might attempt to descend and make 



1 How I Set out to Face my Destiny 485 

my escape before we reached our destination, I cannot 
say, but he drove at a furious pace, taking corners at reck- 
less speed, so that the chaise lurched and swayed most 
violently, and, more than once, I was compelled to hold that 
awful figure down upon the seat before me, lest it should 
slide to the floor. On we sped, past hedge and tree, by 
field and lonely wood. And ever in my ears was the whir 
of the wheels, the drumming of hoofs, and the crack of 
the whip; and ever the flitting moonbeams danced across 
that muffled face until it seemed that the features writhed 
and gibed at me, beneath the folds of the neckerchief. 

And so at last came lights and houses, and the sound of 
excited voices as we pulled up before the Posting House at 
Cranbrook. Looking from the window, I saw a ring of 
faces with eyes that gleamed in the light of the lanthorns, 
and every eye was fixed on me, and every foot gave back 
a step as I descended from the chaise. And, while I stood 
there, the Postilion came with two white-faced ostlers, who, 
between them, bore a heavy burden through the crowd, 
stumbling awkwardly as they went ; and, as men saw that 
which they carried, there came a low, deep sound — word- 
less, inarticulate, yet full of menace. But, above this 
murmur rose a voice, and I saw the Postilion push his way 
to the steps of the inn, and turn there, with hands clenched 
and raised above his head. 

" My master — Sir Maurice Vibart — is killed — shot 
to death — murdered down there in the 'aunted 'Oiler ! " 
he cried, " and, if you axes me who done it, I says to you 
— 'e did — so 'elp me God ! " and speaking, he raised his 
whip and pointed at me. 

Once more there rose that inarticulate sound of menace, 
and once more all eyes were fixed upon me. 

" 'E were a fine gen 'man ! " said a voice. 

" Ah ! so gay an' light-'earted ! " said another. 

" Ay, ay — a generous, open-'anded gen'man ! " said a 
third. 

And every moment the murmur swelled, and grew more 
threatening; fists were clenched, and sticks flourished, so 



486 The Broad Highway 

that, instinctively, I set my back against the chaise, for 
it seemed they lacked only some one to take the initiative 
ere they fell upon me. 

The Postilion saw this too, for, with a shout, he sprang 
forward, his whip upraised. But, as he did so, the crowd 
was burst asunder, he was caught by a mighty arm, and 
Black George stood beside me, his eyes glowing, his fists 
clenched, and his hair and beard bristling. 

" Stand back, you chaps," he growled, " stand back — 
or I '11 'urt some on ye ; be ye all a lot o' dogs to set on an' 
worry one as is all alone? " And then, turning to me, 
" What be the matter wi' the fools, Peter? " 

" Matter ? " cried the Postilion ; " murder be the matter 
— my master be murdered — shot to death — an' there 
stands the man as done it ! " 

" Murder? " cried George, in an altered voice ; " mur- 
der ? " Now, as he spoke, the crowd parted, and four 
ostlers appeared, bearing a hurdle between them, and on 
the hurdle lay a figure, an elegant figure whose head and 
face were still muffled in my neckerchief. I saw George 
start, and, like a flash, his glance came round to my bare 
throat, and dismay was in his eyes. 

" Peter ? " he murmured ; then he laughed suddenly 

and clapped his hand down upon my shoulder. " Look 'ee, 
you chaps," he cried, facing the crowd, " this is my friend 
Peter — an honest man an' no murderer, as 'e will tell ye 
'isself — this is my friend as I 'd go bail for wi' my life to 
be a true man ; speak up, Peter, an' tell 'em as you 'm an 
honest man an' no murderer." But I shook my head. 

" Oh, Peter ! " he whispered, " speak ! speak ! " 

" Not here, George," I answered ; " it would be of no 
avail — besides, I can say nothing to clear myself." 

" Nothin', Peter? " 

" Nothing, George. This man was shot and killed in the 
Hollow — I found him lying dead — I found the empty 
pistol, and the Postilion, yonder, found me standing over 
the body. That is all I have to tell." 

" Peter," said he, speaking hurriedly beneath his breath, 



How I Set out to Face my Destiny 487 

" oh, Peter ! — let 's run for it — 't would be main easy 
for the likes o* you an' me — " 

" No, George," I answered ; " it would be worse than 
useless. But one thing I do ask of you — you who know 
me so much better than most — and it is, that you will bid 
me good-by, and — take my hand once more, George — 
here before all these eyes that look upon me as a murderer, 
and — " 

Before I had finished he had my hand in both of his — 
nay, had thrown one great arm protectingly about me. 

" Why, Peter — " he began, in a strangely cracked 
voice, " oh ! man as I love ! — never think as I 'd believe 
their lies, an' — Peter — such fighters as you an' me ! — 
a match for double their number — let 's make a bolt for 
it — ecod ! I want to hit somebody. Never doubt me, 
Peter — your friend — an' they 'd go over like skittles — 
like skittles, Peter — " 

The crowd, which had swelled momentarily, surged, 
opened, and a man on horseback pushed his way towards 
me, & man in some disorder of dress, as though he had 
clothed himself in a hurry. 

Rough hands were now laid upon me; I saw George's 
fist raised threateningly, but caught it in my grasp. 

" Good-by," said I, " good-by, George, and don't look so 
downcast, man." But we were forced apart, and I was 
pushed and pulled and hustled away, through a crowd of 
faces whose eyes damned me wherever I looked, along pan- 
elled passage ways, and into a long, dim room, where sat 
the gentleman I had seen on the horse, busily tying his 
cravat, to whom I delivered up the pistol, and answered 
divers questions as well as I might, and by whom, after 
much j otting of notes and memoranda, I was delivered over 
to four burly fellows, who, with deep gravity, and a grip 
much tighter than was necessary, once more led me out into 
the moonlit street, where were people who pressed forward 
to stare into my face, and people who leaned out of win- 
dows to stare down upon my head, and many more who 
followed at my heels. 



488 The Broad Highway 

And thus, in much estate, I ascended a flight of worn 
stone steps into the churchyard, and so — by a way of 
tombs and graves — came at last to the great square 
church-tower, into which I was incontinently thrust, and 
there very securely locked up. 



CHAPTER XLIV 

THE BOW STREET RUNNERS 

It was toward evening of the next day that the door of 
my prison was opened, and two men entered. The first was 
a tall, cadaverous-looking individual of a melancholy cast 
of feature, who, despite the season, was wrapped in a long 
frieze coat reaching almost to his heels, from the pocket of 
which projected a short staff, or truncheon. He came for- 
ward with his hands in his pockets, and his bony chin on 
his breast, looking at me under the brim of a somewhat 
weather-beaten hat — that is to say, he looked at my feet 
and my hands and my throat and my chin, but never seemed 
to get any higher. 

His companion, on the contrary, bustled forward, and, 
tapping me familiarly on the shoulder, looked me over with 
a bright, appraising eye. 

" S'elp me, Jeremy ! " said he, addressing his saturnine 
friend, " s'elp me, if I ever see a pore misfort'nate cove 
more to my mind an' fancy — nice an' tall an' straight- 
legged — twelve stone if a pound — a five-foot drop now 
— or say five foot six, an' 'e '11 go off as sweet as a bird ; 
ah ! you '11 never feel it, my covey — not a twinge ; a leetle 
tightish round the windpipe, p'r'aps — but, Lord, it 's soon 
over. You 're lookin' a bit pale round the gills, young 
cove, but, Lord ! that 's only nat'ral too." Here he pro- 
duced from the depths of a capacious pocket something that 
glittered beneath his agile fingers. " And 'ow might be 
your general 'ealth, young cove? " he went on affably, 
" bobbish, I 'ope — fair an' bobbish? " As he spoke, with 



49 o The Broad Highway 

a sudden, dexterous motion, he had snapped something upon 
my wrists, so quickly that, at the contact of the cold steel, 
I started, and as I did so, something jingled faintly. 

" There ! " he exclaimed, clapping me on the shoulder 
again, but at the same time casting a sharp glance at my 
shackled wrists — " there — now we 're all 'appy an' com- 
fortable ! I see as you 're a cove as takes things nice an' 
quiet, an' — so long as you do — I 'm your friend — 
Bob 's my name, an' bobbish is my natur'. Lord ! — the 
way I 've seen misfort'nate coves take on at sight o' them 
* bracelets ' is something out-rageous ! But you — why, 
you 're a different kidney — you 're my kind, you are — 
what do you say, Jeremy? " 

" Don't like 'is eye ! " growled that individual. 

" Don't mind Jeremy," winked the other ; " it 's just 'is 
per-werseness. Lord ! 'e is the per-wersest codger you ever 
see! Why, 'e finds fault wi' the Pope o' Rome, jest 
because 'e 's in the 'abit o' lettin' coves kiss 'is toe — I 've 
'eard Jeremy work 'isself up over the Pope an' a pint o' 
porter, till you 'd 'ave thought — " 

" Ain't we never a-goin' to start ? " inquired Jeremy, 
staring out of the window, with his back to us. 

" And where," said I, " where might you be taking 
me? " 

" Why, since you ax, my covey, we 'm a-takin' you 
where you '11 be took good care on, where you '11 feed well, 
and 'ave j ustice done on you — trust us for that. Though, 
to be sure, I 'm sorry to take you from such proper 
quarters as these 'ere — nice and airy — eh, Jeremy ? " 

" Ah ! — an' wi' a fine view o' the graves ! " growled Jer- 
emy, leading the way out. 

In the street stood a chaise and four, surrounded by a 
pushing, jostling throng of men, women, and children, who, 
catching sight of me between the Bow Street Ruimers, 
forgot to push and jostle, and stared at me with every eye 
and tooth they possessed* until I was hidden in the chaise. 

" Right away ! " growled Jeremy, shutting the door with 
a bang. 



The Bow Street Runners 491 

" Whoa ! " roared a voice, and a great, shaggy golden 
head was thrust in at the window, and a hand reached down 
and grasped mine. 

" A pipe an' 'baccy, Peter — from me ; a flask o' rum — 
Simon's best, from Simon; an' chicken sang-widges, from 
my Prue." This as he passed in each article through the 
window. " An' I were to say, Peter, as we are all wi' 
you — ever an' ever, an' I were likewise to tell 'ee as 'ow 
Prue '11 pray for 'ee oftener than before, an' — ecod ! " he 
broke off, the tears running down his face, " there were a 
lot more, but I 've forgot it all, only, Peter, me an' Simon 
be goin' to get a lawyer chap for 'ee, an' — oh, man, Peter, 
say the word, an' I '11 have 'ee out o' this in a twinklin' — 
an' we '11 run for it — " 

But, even as I shook my head, the postboy's whip 
cracked, and the horses plunged forward. 

" Good-by, George ! " I cried, " good-by, dear fellow ! " 
and the last I saw of him was as he stood rubbing his tears 
away with one fist and shaking the other after the chaise. 



CHAPTER XLV 

WHICH CONCERNS ITSELF, AMONG OTHER MATTERS, WITH 
THE BOOTS OF THE SATURNINE JEREMY 

" A bottle o' rum ! " said the man Bob, and taking it up, 
very abstracted of eye, he removed the cork, sniffed at it, 
tasted it, took a gulp, and handed it over to his companion, 
who also looked at, sniffed at, and tasted it. " And what 
d' ye make o' that, Jeremy ? " 

" Tasted better afore now ! " growled Jeremy, and im- 
mediately took another pull. 

" Sang-widges, too ! " pursued the man Bob, in a rumi- 
nating tone, " an' I always was partial to chicken ! " and, 
forthwith, opening the dainty parcel, he helped himself, 
and his companion also. 

"What d'ye make o' them, Jeremy?" he inquired, 
munching. 

" I 've eat wuss ! " rumbled Jeremy, also munching. 

" Young cove, they does you credit," said the man Bob, 
nodding to me with great urbanity, " great credit — there 
ain't many misfort'nates as can per-jooce such sang-widges 
as them, though, to be sure, they eats uncommon quick — 
'old 'ard there, Jeremy — " But, indeed, the sandwiches 
were already only a memory, wherefore his brow grew 
black, and he glared at the still munching Jeremy, who met 
his looks with his usual impenetrable gloom. 

" A pipe and 'bacca ! " mused the man Bob, after we 
had ridden some while in silence, and, with the same serene 
unconsciousness of manner, he took the pipe, filled it, lighted 
it, and puffed with an air of dreamy content. 



The Boots of Saturnine Jeremy 493 

" Jeremy is a good-ish sort," he began, with a compla- 
cent flourish of the pipe, " a good-ish sort, but cross- 
grained — Lord ! young cove, 'is cross-grainedness is 
ekalled only by 'is per-werseness, and 'cause why? — 'cause 
'e don't smoke — (go easy wi' the rum, Jeremy!) there's 
nothin' like a pipe o' 'bacca to soothe such things away — 
(I got my eye on ye, Jeremy!) — no, there 's nothin' like 
a pipe o' 'bacca. Look at me — I were the per-wersest 
infant that ever was, till I took to smokin', and to-day, 
whatever I am, I ain't per-werse, nor yet cross-grained, and 
many a misfort'nate cove, as is now no more — 'as wept 
over me at par tin' — " 

" They generally always do ! " growled Jeremy, uncork- 
ing the rum-bottle with his teeth. 

" No, Jerry, no," returned the other, blowing out a cloud 
of smoke; " misfort'nates ain't all the same — (arter you 
wi' that bottle !) — you 'ave Cryers, and Laughers, and 
Pray-ers, and Silent Ones, and the silent coves is the dan- 
gerousest — (arter you wi' the bottle, Jeremy!) — now 
you, my covey," he went on, tapping my hand gently with 
his pipe-stem, " you ain't exactly talkative, in fact — not 
wishin' no offense, I might say as you was inclined to be one 

o' the Silent Ones. Not as I 'olds that again' you far 

from it, only you reminds me of a young cove as 'ad the 
misfort'n to get 'isself took for forgery, and who — arter 
me a-talkin' and a-chattin' to 'im in my pleasant way — 
went and managed to commit sooicide — under my very 
nose — which were 'ardly nice, or even respectable, con- 
siderin' — (arter you wi' the bottle, Jeremy !)" 

Jeremy growled, held up the bottle to the failing light of 
evening, measured its contents with his thumb, and extended 
it unwillingly towards his comrade's ready hand; but it 
never got there, for, at that instant, the chaise lurched 
violently — there was a cry, a splintering of glass, a crash, 
and I was lying, half stunned, in a ditch, listening to the 
chorus of oaths and cries that rose from the cloud of dust 
where the frightened horses reared and plunged. 

How long I remained thus I cannot say, but, all at once, 



494 The Broad Highway 

I found myself upon my feet, running down the road, for, 
hazy though my mind yet was, I could think only of escape, 
of liberty, and freedom — at any price — at any cost. So 
I ran on down the road, somewhat unsteadily as yet, be- 
cause my fall had been a heavy one, and my brain still 
reeled. I heard a shout behind me — the sharp crack of a 
pistol, and a bullet sang over my head; and then I knew 
they were after me, for I could hear the patter of their 
feet upon the hard road. 

Now, as I ran, my brain cleared, but this only served me 
to appreciate the difficulty of eluding men so seasoned and 
hardy as my pursuers ; morover, the handcuffs galled my 
wrists, and the short connecting chain hampered my move- 
ments considerably, and I saw that, upon this straight level, 
I must soon be run down, or shot from behind. 

Glancing back, I beheld them some hundred yards, or so, 
away, elbows in, heads up, running with that long, free 
stride that speaks of endurance. I increased the pace, the 
ground flew beneath me, but, when I glanced again, though 
the man Bob had dropped back, the saturnine Jeremy ran 
on, no nearer, but no farther than before. 

Now, as I went, I presently espied that for which I had 
looked — a gate set in the midst of the hedge, but it was 
closed, and never did a gate, before or since, appear quite 
so high and insurmountable; but, with the desperation of 
despair, I turned, ran at it, and sprang, swinging my arms 
above my head as I did so. My foot grazed the top bar — 
down I came, slipped, stumbled, regained my balance, and 
ran on over the springy turf. I heard a crash behind me, 
an oath, a second pistol barked, and immediately it seemed 
that a hot iron seared my forearm, and glancing down, I 
saw the skin cut and bleeding, but, finding it no worse, 
breathed a sigh of thankfulness, and ran on. 

By that leap I had probably gained some twenty yards ; 
I would nurse my strength, therefore. If I could once gain 
the woods ! How far off were they? — half-a-mile, a mile? 
— well, I could run that easily, thanks to my hardy life. 
Stay ! what was that sound behind me — the fall of flying 



The Boots of Saturnine Jeremy 495 

feet, or the throbbing of my own heart? I turned my head ; 
the man Jeremy was within twelve yards of me — lean and 
spare, his head thrust forward, he ran with the long, easy 
stride of a greyhound. 

So it was to be a question of endurance? Well, I had 
caught my second wind by now. I set my teeth, and, 
clenching my fists, lengthened my stride. 

And now, indeed, the real struggle began. My pursuer 
had long ago abandoned his coat, but his boots were heavier 
and clumsier than those I wore ; but then, again, my con- 
fining shackles seemed to contract my chest ; and the hand- 
cuffs galled my wrists cruelly. 

On I went, scattering flocks of scampering sheep, past 
meditative cows who started up, puffing out snorts of per- 
fume; scrambling through hedges, over gate and stile and 
ditch, with eyes upon the distant woods full of the purple 
gloom of evening, and, in my ears, the muffled thud! 
thud ! thud ! thud ! of the pursuit, sometimes seeming much 
nearer, and sometimes much farther off, but always the 
same rhythmic, remorseless thud! thud! thud! thud! 

On, and ever on, climbing steep uplands, plunging down 
precipitous slopes, past brawling brooks and silent pools 
all red and gold with sunset, past oak and ash and thorn — 
on and on, with ever those thudding footfalls close behind. 
And, as we ran, it seemed to me that our feet beat out a 
kind of cadence — his heavy shoes, and my lighter ones. 

Thud! thud! — pad! pad! — thud! thud! — pad! pad! 
until they would suddenly become confused, and mingle 
with each other. 

One moment it seemed that I almost loved the fellow, 
and the next that I bitterly hated him. Whether I had 
gained or not, I could not tell; to look back was to lose 
ground. 

The woods were close now, so close that I fancied I 
heard the voice of their myriad leaves calling to me — 
encouraging me. But my breath was panting thick and 
short, my stride was less sure, my wrists were raw and 
bleeding, and the ceaseless jingle of my chain maddened me. 



496 The Broad Highway 

Thud ! — thud ! — untiring, persistent — thud ! — thud ! 
— the pulse at my temples throbbed in time with it, my 
breath panted to it. And surely it was nearer, more dis- 
tinct — yes, he had gained on me in the last half-mile — 
but how much ? I cast a look over my shoulder ; it was but 
a glance, yet I saw that he had lessened the distance 
between us by half. His face shone with sweat — his mouth 
was a line — his nostrils broad and expanded — his eyes 
staring and shot with blood, but he ran on with the same long 
easy stride that was slowly but surely wearing me down. 

We were descending a long, grassy slope, and I stumbled, 
more than once, and rolled in my course, but on came those 
remorseless footfalls — thud ! — thud ! — thud^ — thud ! — 
strong and sure as ever. 

He was nearing me fast — he was close upon me — 
closer — within reaoh of me. I could hear his whistling 
breaths, and then, all at once, I was down on hands and 
knees ; he tried to avoid me — failed, and, shooting high 
over me, thudded down upon the grass. 

For a moment he lay still, then, with a groan, he rolled 
over, and propping himself on his arm, thrust a hand into 
his bosom ; but I hurled myself upon him, and, after a brief 
struggle, twisted the pistol from his grasp, whereupon he 
groaned again. 

"Hurt?" I panted. 

" Arm broke, I think," he growled, and forthwith burst 
out into a torrent of curses. 

" Does it — hurt — so much? " I panted. 

" Ah ! but it — ain't that," he panted back ; " it 's me — 
a-lettin' of you — work off a mouldy — old trick on me — 
like — that there — " 

" It was my only chance," said I, sitting down beside 
him to regain my wind. 

" To think," he growled, " o' me bein' took in by a — " 

" But you are a great runner ! " said I. 

" A great fool, you mean, to be took in by a — " 

" You have a long walk back, and your arm will be 
painful — " 



The Boots of Saturnine Jeremy 497 

" And serve me right for bein' took in by — " 

" If you will lend me your neckerchief, I think I can 
make your arm more comfortable," said I. He ceased 
cursing to stare at me, slowly and awkwardly unwound the 
article in question, and passed it to me. Thereupon, having 
located the fracture, I contrived a rough splint with a 
piece of wood lying near; which done, he thanked me, in 
a burst of profanity, and rose. 

" I 've see worse coves nor you ! " said he, " and one 
good turn desarvin' another — lie snug all day, and travel 
by night, and keep to the byroads — this ain't no common 
case, there '11 be a thousand pound on your 'ead afore the 
week 's out — so look spry, my cove ! " saying which, he 
nodded, turned upon his heel, and strode away, cursing to 
himself. 

Now, presently, as I went, I heard the merry ring and 
clink of hammer and anvil, and, guided by the sound, 
came to a tumbledown smithy where was a man busily at 
work, with a shock-headed boy at the bellows. At sight 
of me, the smith set down his hammer and stared open- 
mouthed, as did also the shock-headed boy. 

" How long would it take you to file off these shackles ? " 
I inquired, holding out my hands. 

"To — to file 'em off?" 

" Yes." 

" Why, that — that depends — " 

" Then do it — as soon as you can." Upon this, the 
man turned his back to me and began rummaging among 
his tools, with his head very near that of the shock-headed 
boy, until, having found a file suitable to the purpose, he 
set to work upon my handcuffs. But he progressed so 
slowly, for one reason and another, that I began to grow 
impatient; moreover, noticing that the shock-headed boy 
had disappeared, I bade him desist. 

" A cold chisel and hammer will be quickest," said I ; 
" come, cut me off this chain — here, close up to the 
rivets." And, when he had done this, I took his file, and 
thrusting it beneath my coat, set off, running my hardest, 



498 The Broad Highway- 

leaving him to stare after me, with his eyes and mouth 
wider than ever. 

The sun was down when I reached the woods, and here, 
in the kind shadows, I stayed awhile to rest, and rid myself 
of my handcuffs ; but, when I felt for the file to do so — it 
was gone. 



CHAPTER XLVI 

HOW I CAME TO LONDON 

Justly bo narrate all that befell me during my flight and 
journey to London, would fill many pages, and therefore, 
as this book of mine is already of a magnitude far beyond 
my first expectations, I shall hurry on to the end of my 
story. 

Acting upon the advice of the saturnine Jeremy, I lay 
hidden by day, and traveled by night, avoiding the high- 
way. But in so doing I became so often involved in the 
maze of cross-roads, bylanes, cow-paths, and cart-tracks, 
that twice the dawn found me as completely lost as though 
I had been set down in the midst of the Sahara. I thus 
wasted much time, and wandered many miles out of my 
way ; wherefore, to put an end to these futile ramblings, I 
set my face westward, hoping to strike the highroad some- 
where between Tonbridge and Sevenoaks ; determined rather 
to run the extra chance of capture than follow haphazard 
these tortuous and interminable byways. 

It was, then, upon the third night since my escape that, 
faint and spent with hunger, I saw before me the welcome 
sight of a finger-post, and hurrying forward, eager to learn 
my whereabouts, came full upon a man who sat beneath 
the finger-post, with a hunch of bread and meat upon his 
knee, which he was eating by means of a clasp-knife. 

Now I had tasted nothing save two apples all day, and 
but little the day before — thus, at sight of this appe- 
tizing food, my hunger grew, and increased to a violent 
desire before which prudence vanished and caution flew 
away. Therefore I approached the man, with my eyes 
upon his bread and meat. 



500 The Broad Highway 

But, as I drew nearer, my attention was attracted by 
something white that was nailed up against the finger-post* 
and I stopped dead, with my eyes riveted by a word 
printed in great black capitals, and stood oblivious alike of 
the man who had stopped eating to stare at me, and the 
bread and meat that he had set down upon the grass ; for 
what I saw was this : 

G. R. 

MURDER 
£500 REWARD 

Whereas, PETER SMITH, blacksmith, late of 
SISSINGHURST, in the county of Kent, suspected 
of the crime of WILFUL MURDER, did, upon the 
Tenth of August last, make his escape from his 
gaolers, upon the Tonbridge road, somewhere 
between SISSINGHURST and PEMBRY; the 
above REWARD, namely, FIVE HUNDRED 
POUNDS, will be paid to such person, or persons 
who shall give such INFORMATION as shall lead 
to the ARREST, and APPREHENSION of the 
aforesaid PETER SMITH. In the furtherance of 
which, is hereunto added a just and close description 
of the same — VIZ. — He is six foot tall, and a siz- 
able ROGUE. His hair, black, his eyes dark and 
piercing. Clad, when last seen, in a worn velveteen 
jacket, knee-breeches buckled at the knees, gray 
worsted stockings, and patched shoes. The coat 
TORN at the RIGHT shoulder. Upon his wrists, 
a pair of steel HANDCUFFS. Last seen in the 
vicinity of PEMBRY. 

While I yet stared at this, I was conscious that the man 
had risen, and now stood at my elbow; also, that in one 
hand he carried a short, heavy stick. He stood very still, 
and with bent head, apparently absorbed in the printed 
words before him, but more than once I saw his eyes gleam 
in the shadow of his hat-brim, as they turned to scan me 
furtively up and down. Yet he did not speak or move, and 
there was something threatening, I thought, in his immo- 
bility. Wherefore I, in turn, watched him narrowly from 
the corner of my eye, and thus it chanced that our glances 
met. 



How I Came to London 501 

" You seem thoughtful? " said I. 

"Ah! — I be that." 

" And what might you be thinking? " 

" Why — since you ax me, I was thinkin' as your eye 
was mighty sharp and piercin'." 

" Ah! " said I ; " and what more? " 

" That your coat was tore at the shoulder." 

" So it is," I nodded ;" well? " 

" You likewise wears buckled breeches, and gray worsted 
stockings." 

" You are a very observant man ! " said I. 

" Though, to be sure," said he, shaking his head, " I 
don't see no 'andcuffs." 

" That is because they are hidden under my sleeves." 

" A — h — h ! " said he, and I saw the stick quiver in his 
grip. 

" As I said before, you are a very observant man ! " 
said I, watching the stick. 

" Well, I 've got eyes, and can see as much as most 
folk," he retorted, and here the stick quivered again. 

" Yes," I nodded ; " you also possess legs, and can prob- 
ably walk fast? " 

" Ah ! — and run, too, if need be," he added significantly* 

" Then suppose you start." 

"Start where?" 

" Anywhere, so long as you do start." 

" Not wi'out you, my buck ! I 've took a powerful fancy 
to you, and that there five hundred pounds " — here his 
left hand shot out and grasped my collar — " so — 
s'posin' you come along o' me. And no tricks, mind — no 
tricks, or — ah! — would ye? " The heavy stick whirled 
up, but, quick as he, I had caught his wrist, and now 
presented my pistol full in his face. 

" Drop that stick ! " said I, pressing the muzzle of the 
weapon lightly against his forehead as I spoke. At the 
touch of the cold steel his body suddenly stiffened and grew 
rigid, his eyes opened in a horrified stare, and the stick 
clattered down on the road. 

" Talking of fancies," I pursued, " I have a great mind 



502 The Broad Highway 

to that smock-frock of yours, so take it off, and quick 
about it." 

In a fever of haste he tore off the garment in question, 
and, he thrusting it eagerly upon me, I folded it over my 
arm. 

" Now," said I, " since you say you can run, supposing 
you show me what you can do. This is a good straight 
lane — off with you and do your best, and no turning or 
stopping, mind, for the moon is very bright, and I am a 
pretty good shot." Hardly waiting to hear me out, the 
fellow set off up the lane, running like the wind ; whereupon, 
I (waiting only to snatch up his forgotten bread and 
meat) took to my heels — down the lane, so that, when I 
presently stopped to don the smock-frock, its late possessor 
had vanished as though he had never been. 

I hurried on, nevertheless, eating greedily as I went, and, 
after some while, left the narrow lane behind, and came out 
on the broad highway that stretched like a great, white 
riband, unrolled beneath the moon. And here was another 
finger-post with the words : 

" To Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, and the Wells. — To Bromley 
and London." 

And here, also, was another placard, headed by that 
awful word : MURDER — which seemed to leap out at me 
from the rest. And, with that word, there rushed over 
me the memory of Charmian as I had seen her stand — 
white-lipped, haggard of eye, and — with one hand hidden 
in the folds of her gown. 

So I turned and strove to flee from this hideous word, 
and, as I went, I clenched my fists and cried within myself: 
" I love her — love her — no doubt can come between us 
more — I love her — love her — love her ! " Thus I hurried 
on along the great highroad, but, wherever I looked, I 
saw this most hateful word; it shone out palely from the 
shadows ; it was scored into the dust at my feet ; even 
across the splendor of the moon, in jagged characters, I 
seemed to read that awful word: MURDER. 



How I Came to London 503 

And the soft night-wind woke voices to whisper it as I 
passed; the somber trees and gloomy hedgerows were full 
of it; I heard it in the echo of my step — MURDER! 
MURDER! It was always there, whether I walked or 
ran, in rough and stony places, in the deep, soft dust, in 
the dewy, tender grass — it was always there, whispering 
at my heels, and refusing to be silenced. 

I had gone on, in this way, for an hour or more, avoiding 
the middle of the road, because of the brilliance of the 
moon, when I overtook something that crawled in the gloom 
of the hedge, and approaching, pistol in hand, saw that 
it was a man. 

He was creeping forward slowly and painfully on his 
hands and knees, but, all at once, sank down on his face 
in the grass, only to rise, groaning, and creep on once 
more ; and, as he went, I heard him praying : 

" Lord, give me strength — O Lord, give me strength. 
Angela ! Angela ! It is so far — so far — " And groan- 
ing, he sank down again, upon his face. 

" You are ill ! " said I, bending over him. 

" I must reach Deptf ord — she 's buried at Deptford, 
and I shall die to-night — O Lord, give me strength ! " he 
panted. 

" Deptford is miles away," said I. 

Now, as I spoke, he lifted himself upon his hands and 
stared up at me. I saw a haggard, hairy face, very thin 
and sunken, but a fire burned in the eyes, and the eyes 
seemed, somehow, familiar. 

" You ! " he cried, and spat up in the air towards me ; 
" devil ! " he cried, " Devil Vibart." I recoiled instinctively 
before the man's sudden, wild ferocity, but, propping him- 
self against the bank, he shook his hand at me, and 
laughed. 

" Devil ! " he repeated ; " shade ! — ghost of a devil ! — 
have you come back to see me die? " 

" Who are you ? " I cried, bending to look into the pale, 
emaciated face ; " who are you ? " 

" A shadow," he answered, passing a shaking hand up 



504 The Broad Highway 

over his face and brow, " a ghost — a phantom — as you 
are ; but my name was Strickland once, as yours was 
Devil Vibart. I am changed of late — you said so in the 
Hollow, and — laughed. You don't laugh now, Devil Vi- 
bart, you remember poor John Strickland now." 

" You are the Outside Passenger ! " I exclaimed, " the 
madman who followed and shot at me in a wood — " 

" Followed ? Yes, I was a shadow that was always 
behind you — following and following you, Satan Vibart, 
tracking and tracking you to hell and damnation. And 
you fled here, and you fled there, but I was always behind 
you; you hid from me among lowly folk, but you could 
not escape the shadow. Many times I would have killed 
you — but she was between — the Woman. I came once 
to your cottage ; it was night, and the door opened beneath 
my hand — but your time was not then. But — ha ! — I 
met you among trees, as I did once before, and I told 
you my name — as I did once before, and I spoke of her 

— of Angela, and cried her name — and shot you — just 
here, above the brow; and so you died, Devil Vibart, as 
soon I must, for my mission is accomplished — " 

" It was you ! " I cried, kneeling beside him, " it was 
your hand that shot Sir Maurice Vibart? " 

" Yes," he answered, his voice growing very gentle as 
he went on, " for Angela's sake — my dead wife," and, 
fumbling in his pocket, he drew out a woman's small, lace- 
edged handkerchief, and I saw that it was thickened and 
black with blood. " This was hers," he continued, " in her 
hand, the night she died — I had meant to lay it on her 
grave — the blood of atonement — but now — " 

A sudden crash in the hedge above ; a figure silhouetted 
against the sky; a shadowy arm, that, falling, struck the 
moon out of heaven, and, in the darkness, I was down upon 
my knees, and fingers were upon my throat. 

" Oh, Darby ! " cried a voice, " I 've got him — this way 

— quick — oh, Darb — " My fist drove into his ribs ; 
I struggled up under a rain of blows, and we struck and 
swayed and staggered and struck — trampling the groan- 



How I Came to London 505 

ing wretch who lay dying in the ditch. And before me was 
the pale oval of a face, and I smote it twice with my pistol- 
butt, and it was gone, and I — was running along the road. 

" Charmian spoke truth ! O God, I thank thee ! " 

I burst through a hedge, running on, and on — careless 
alike of being seen, of capture or escape, of prison or free- 
dom, for in my heart was a great joy. 

I was conscious of shouts and cries, but I heeded them 
no more, listening only to the song of happiness my heart 
was singing: 

" Charmian spoke truth, her hands are clean. God, 
I thank thee ! " 

And, as I went, I presently espied a caravan, and before 
it a fire of sticks, above which a man was bending, who, 
raising his head, stared at me as I approached. He was a 
strange-looking man, who glared at me with one eye and 
leered j ocosely with the other ; and, being spent and short 
of breath, I stopped, and wiping the sweat from my eyes 
I saw that it was blood. 

" How — is Lewis ? " I panted. 

" What," exclaimed the man, drawing nearer, " is it 
you ? — James ! but you 're a picter, you are — hallo ! " 
he stopped, as his glance encountered the steel that glit- 
tered upon my wrist; while upon the silence the shouts 
swelled, drawing near and nearer. 

" So — the Runners is arter you, are they, young 
feller?" 

" Yes," said I ; " yes. You have only to cry out, and 
they will take me, for I can fight no more, nor run any 
farther ; this knock on the head has made me very dizzy." 

" Then — take a pull at this 'ere," said he, and thrust 
a flat bottle into my hand. The fiery spirit burned my 
throat, but almost immediately my strength and courage 
revived. 

" Better? " 

" Much better," I answered, returning the bottle, " and 
I thank you — " 

" Don't go for to thank me, young feller," said he, 



506 The Broad Highway 

driving the cork into the bottle with a blow of his fist, 
" you thank that young feller as once done as much for 
me — at a Fair. An' now — cut away — run ! — the 'edge 
is good and dark, up yonder — lay low a bit, and leave 
these damned Runners to me." I obeyed without more ado, 
and, as I ran up the lane, I heard him shouting and 
swearing as though engaged in a desperate encounter; 
and, turning in the shadow of the hedge, I saw him met by 
two men, with whom, still shouting and gesticulating exci- 
tedly, he set off, running — down the lane. 

And so I, once more, turned my face London-wards. 

The blood still flowed from the cut in my head, getting 
often into my eyes, yet I made good progress notwith- 
standing. But, little by little, the effect of the spirits 
wore off, a drowsiness stole over me, my limbs felt numbed 
and heavy. And with this came strange fancies and a 
dread of the dark. Sometimes it seemed that odd lights 
danced before my eyes, like marsh-fires, and strange voices 
gabbled in my ears, furiously unintelligible, with laughter 
in a high-pitched key ; sometimes I cast myself down in 
the dewy grass, only to start up again, trembling, and run 
on till I was breathless ; but ever I struggled forward, 
despite the throbbing of my broken head, and the gnawing 
hunger that consumed me. 

After a while, a mist came on, a mist that formed itself 
into deep valleys, or rose in jagged spires and pinnacles, 
but constantly changing; a mist that moved and writhed 
within itself. And in this mist were forms, nebulous and 
indistinct, multitudes that moved in time with me, and the 
voices seemed louder than before, and the laughter much 
shriller, while repeated over and over again, I caught that 
awful word: MURDER, MURDER. 

Chief among this host walked one whose head and face 
were muffled from my sight, but who watched me, I knew, 
through the folds, with eyes that stared fixed and wide. 

Rut now, indeed, the mist seemed to have got into my 
brain, and all things were hazy, and my memory of them 
is dim. Yet I recall passing Bromley village, and slinking 



How I Came to London 507 

furtively through the shadows of the deserted High Street, 
but thereafter all is blank save a memory of pain and toil 
and deadly fatigue. 

I was stumbling up steps — the steps of a terrace ; a 
great house lay before me, with lighted windows here and 
there, but these I feared, and so came creeping to one that 
I knew well, and whose dark panes glittered palely under 
the dying moon. And now I took out my clasp-knife, and, 
fumbling blindly, put back the catch (as I had often done 
as a boy), and so, the window opening, I clambered into 
the dimness beyond. 

Now as I stumbled forward my hand touched some- 
thing, a long, dark object that was covered with a cloth, 
and, hardly knowing what I did, I drew back this cloth 
and looked down at that which it had covered, and sank 
down upon my knees, groaning. For there, staring up at 
me, cold, contemptuous, and set like marble, was the 
smiling, dead face of my cousin Maurice. 

As I knelt there, I was conscious that the door had 
opened, that some one approached, bearing a light, but I 
did not move or heed. 

"Peter? — good God in heaven! — is it Peter?" I 
looked up and into the dilated eyes of Sir Richard. " Is 
it really Peter ? " he whispered. 

" Yes, sir — dying, I think." 

" No, no — Peter — dear boy," he stammered. " You 
did n't know — you had n't heard — poor Maurice — mur- 
dered — fellow — name of Smith — ! " 

" Yes, Sir Richard, I know more about it than most. 
You see, I am Peter Smith." Sir Richard fell back from 
me, and I saw the candle swaying in his grasp. 

" You ? " he whispered, " you ? Oh, Peter ! — oh, my 
boy ! " 

" But I am innocent — innocent — you believe me — 
you who were my earliest friend — my good, kind friend — 
you believe me? " and I stretched out my hands appeal- 
ingly, but, as I did so, the light fell gleaming upon my 
shameful wristlets ; and, even as we gazed into each other's 



508 The Broad Highway- 

eyes, mute and breathless, came the sound of steps and 
hushed voices. Sir Richard sprang forward, and, catching 
me in a powerful hand, half led, half dragged me behind a 
tall leather screen beside the hearth, and thrusting me into 
a chair, turned and hurried to meet the intruders. 

They were three, as I soon discovered by their voices, 
one of which I thought I recognized. 

" It 's a devilish shame ! " the first was saying ; " not a 
soul here for the funeral but our four selves — I say it 's 
a shame — a burning shame ! " 

" That, sir, depends entirely on the point of view," 
answered the second, a somewhat aggressive voice, and 
this it was I seemed to recognize. 

" Point of view, sir ? Where, I should like to know, are 
all those smiling nonentities — those fawning sycophants 
who were once so proud of his patronage, who openly 
modelled themselves upon him, whose highest ambition was 
to be called a friend of the famous ' Buck ' Vibart — 
where are they now? " 

" Doing the same by the present favorite, as is the 
nature of their kind," responded the third ; " poor Maurice 
is already forgotten." 

" The Prince," said the harsh voice, " the Prince would 
never have forgiven him for crossing him in the affair of 
the Lady Sophia Sefton; the day he ran off with her he 
was as surely dead — in a social sense — as he is now — 
in every sense." 

Here the mist settled down upon my brain once more, 
and I heard nothing but a confused murmur of voices, and 
it seemed to me that I was back on the road again, hemmed 
in by those gibbering phantoms that spoke so much, and 
yet said but one word : " Murder." 

" Quick — a candle here — a candle — bring a light — " 
There came a glare before my smarting eyes, and I 
struggled up to my feet. 

" Why — I have seen this fellow's face somewhere — 
ah ! — yes, at an inn — a hang-dog rogue — I threatened 
to pull his nose, I remember, and — by Heaven ! — hand- 



How I Came to London 509 

cuffs ! He has been roughly handled, too ! Gentlemen, 
I '11 lay ray life the murderer is found — though how he 
should come here of all places — extraordinary. Sir 
Richard — you and I, as magistrates — duty — " But 
the mist was very thick, and the voices grew confused 
again; only I knew that hands were upon me, that I was 
led into another room, where were lights that glittered 
upon the silver, the decanters and glasses of a supper table, 

" Yes," I was saying, slowly and heavily ; " yes, I am 
Peter Smith — a blacksmith — who escaped from his gaol- 
ers on the Tonbridge Road — but I am innocent — before 
God — I am innocent. And now — do with me as you 
will — for I am — very weary — " 

Sir Richard's arm was about me, and his voice sounded 
in my ears, but as though a great way off : 

" Sirs," said he, " this is my friend — Sir Peter Vibart." 
There was a moment's pause, then — a chair fell with a 
crash, and there rose a confusion of excited voices which 
grew suddenly silent, for the door had opened, and on the 
threshold stood a woman, tall and proud and richly dressed, 
from the little dusty boot that peeped beneath her habit 
to the wide-sweeping hat-brim that shaded the high beauty 
of her face. And I would have gone to her but that my 
strength failed me. 

" Charmian ! " 

She started, and, turning, uttered a cry, and ran to me. 

" Charmian," said I ; " oh, Charmian ! " And so, with her 
tender arms about me, and her kisses on my lips, the mist 
settled down upon me, thicker and darker than ever. 



CHAPTER XLVII 

IN WHICH THIS HISTORY IS ENDED 

A bright room, luxuriously appointed; a great wide bed 
with carved posts and embroidered canopy ; between the 
curtained windows, a tall oak press with grotesque heads 
carved thereon, heads that leered and gaped and scowled at 
me. But the bed and the room and the oak press were all 
familiar, and the grotesque heads had leered and gaped and 
frowned at me before, and haunted my boyish dreams many 
and many a night. 

And now I lay between sleeping and waking, staring 
dreamily at all these things, till roused by a voice near by, 
and starting up, broad awake, beheld Sir Richard. 

" Deuce take you, Peter ! " he exclaimed ; " I say the 

devil fly away with you, my boy ! — curse me ! — a nice 
pickle you 've made of yourself, with your infernal Revo- 
lutionary notions — your digging and blacksmithing, your 
walking-tours — " 

"Where is she, Sir Richard?" I broke in; "pray, 
where is she? " 

" She? " he returned, scratching his chin with the corner 
of a letter he held; "she?" 

" She whom I saw last night — " 

" You were asleep last night, and the night before." 

" Asleep? — then how long have I been here? " 

" Three days, Peter." 

" And where is she — surely I have not dreamed it all — » 
where is Charmian? " 

" She went away — this morning." 

" Gone ! — where to ? " 



In which this History is Ended 511 

" Gad, Peter ! — how should I know? " But, seeing the 
distress in my face, he smiled, and tendered me the letter. 
" She left this ' For Peter, when he awoke ' — and I 've 
been waiting for Peter to wake all the morning." 

Hastily I broke the seal, and, unfolding the paper with 
tremulous hands read : 

" Dearest, noblest, and most disbelieving of 
Peters, — Oh, did you think you could hide your hateful 
suspicion from me — from me who know you so well? I 
felt it in your kiss, in the touch of your strong hand, I saw 
it in your eyes. Even when I told you the truth, and 
begged you to believe me, even then, deep down in your 
heart you thought it was my hand that had killed Sir 
Maurice, and God only knows the despair that filled me as 
I turned and left you. 

" And so, Peter — perhaps to punish you a little, per- 
haps because I cannot bear the noisy world just yet, 
perhaps because I fear you a little — I have run away. 
But I remember also how, believing me guilty, you loved 
me still, and gave yourself up, to shield me, and, dying of 
hunger and fatigue — came to find me. And so, Peter, I 
have not run so very far, nor hidden myself so very close, 
and if you understand me as you should your search need 
not be so very long. And dear, dear Peter, there is just 
one other thing, which I hoped that you would guess, 
which any other would have guessed, but which, being a 
philosopher, you never did guess. Oh, Peter — I was 
once, very long ago it seems, Sophia Charmian Sefton, 
but I am now, and always was, Your Humble Person, 

" Charmian." 

The letter fell from my fingers, and I remained staring 
before me so long that Sir Richard came and laid his hand 
on my shoulder. 

" Oh, boy ! " said he, very tenderly ; " she has told me 
all the story, and I think, Peter, I think it is given to very 
few men to win the love of such a woman as this." 

" God knows it ! " said I. 



512 The Broad Highway 

" And to have married one so very noble and high in 
all things — you should be very proud, Peter." 

" I am," said I ; " oh, I am, sir." 

" Even, Peter — even though she be a — virago, this 
Lady Sophia — or a termagant — " 

" I was a great fool in those days," said I, hanging my 
head, " and very young ! " 

a It was only six months ago, Peter." 

44 But I am years older today, sir." 

44 And the husband of the most glorious woman — the 
most — oh, curse me, Peter, if you deserve such a goddess !" 

44 And — she worked for me ! " said I ; 44 cooked and 
served and mended my clothes — where are they ? " I cried, 
and sprang out of bed. 

44 What the deuce — " began Sir Richard. 

44 My clothes," said I, looking vainly about; " my clothes 

— pray, Sir Richard, where are they? " 
44 Burnt, Peter." 

"Burnt?" 

" Every blood-stained rag ! " he nodded ; " her orders." 

44 But — what am I to do? " 

Sir Richard laughed, and, crossing to the press, opened 
the door. 

44 Here are all the things you left behind you when you 
set out to — dig, and — egad ! — make your fortune. I 
could n't let 'em go with all the rest — so I — er — had 
'em brought here, to — er — to keep them for you — ready 
for the time when you should grow tired of digging, and 
come back to me, and — er — oh, dammit! — you under- 
stand — and Grainger 's waiting to see you in the library 

— been there hours — so dress yourself. In Heaven's 
name, dress yourself ! " he cried, and hurried from the 
room. 

It was with a certain satisfaction that I once more donned 
buckskin and spurred boots, and noticed moreover how 
tight my coat was become across the shoulders ; yet I 
dressed hastily, for my mind was already on the road, 
galloping to Charmian. 



In which this History is Ended 513 

In the library I found Sir Richard, and Mr. Grainger, 
who greeted me with his precise little bow. 

" I have to congratulate you, Sir Peter," he began, 
u not only on your distinguished marriage, and accession 
to fortune, but upon the fact that the — ah — unpleasant- 
ness connecting a certain Peter Smith with your unfortu- 
nate cousin's late decease has been entirely removed by 
means of the murderer's written confession, placed in my 
hands some days ago by the Lady Sophia." 

" A written confession — and she brought it to you ? " 

" Galloped all the way from Tonbridge, by Gad ! " 
nodded Sir Richard. 

" It seems," pursued Mr. Grainger, " that the — ah — 
man, John Strickland, by name, lodged with a certain 
preacher, to whom, in Lady Vibart's presence, he con- 
fessed his crime, and willingly wrote out a deposition to that 
effect. It also appears that the man, sick though he was, 
wandered from the Preacher's cottage, and was eventually 
found upon the road, and now lies in Maidstone gaol, in 
a dying condition." 

Chancing, presently, to look from the window, I beheld 
a groom who led a horse up and down before the door ; and 
the groom was Adam, and the horse — 

I opened the window, and, leaning out, called a name. 
At the sound of my voice the man smiled and touched his 
hat, and the mare ceased her pawing and chafing, and 
turned upon me a pair of great, soft eyes, and snuffed the 
air, and whinnied. So I leapt out of the window, and down 
the steps, and thus it was that I met " Wings." 

" She be in the pink o' condition, sir," said Adam proudly ; 
" Sir Richard bought 'er — " 

" For a song ! " added the baronet, who, with Mr. 
Grainger, had followed to bid me good-by. " J really got 
her remarkably cheap," he explained, thrusting his fists 
deep into his pockets, and frowning down my thanks. But, 
when I had swung myself into the saddle, he came and laid 
his hand upon my knee. 

" You are going to — find her, Peter ? " 



514 The Broad Highway 

" Yes, sir." 

" And you know — where to look? * 

" I think so — " 

" Because, if you don't — I might — " 

" I shall go to a certain cottage," said I tentatively. 

" Then you 'd better go, boy — the mare 's all excite- 
ment — good-by, Peter — and cutting up my gravel most 
damnably — good-by ! " So saying, he reached up and 
gripped my hand very hard, and stared at me also very 
hard, though the tears stood in his eyes. " I always felt 
very fatherly towards you, Peter — and — you won't for- 
get the lonely old man — come and see me now and then — 
both of you, for it does get damnably lonely here sometimes, 
and oh, curse it ! Good-by ! dear lad." So he turned, and 
walked up the steps into his great, lonely house. 

" O Wings ! with thy slender grace, and tireless strength, 
if ever thou didst gallop before, do thy best to-day! 
Spurn, spurn the dust 'neath thy fleet hoofs, stretch thy 
graceful Arab neck, bear me gallantly to-day, O Wings, 
for never shalt thou and I see its like again." 

Swift we flew, with the wind before, and the dust behind, 
past wayside inns where besmocked figures paused- in their 
grave discussions to turn and watch us by; past smiling 
field and darkling copse; past lonely cottage and village 
green; through Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, with never a 
stop; up Pembry hill, and down, galloping so lightly, so 
easily, over that hard, familiar road, which I had lately 
(tramped with so much toil and pain; and so, as evening 
{ fell, to Sissinghurst. 

A dreamy, sleepy place is Sissinghurst at all times, for 
its few cottages, like its inn, are very old, and great age 
bejgets dreams. But, when the sun is low, and the shadows 
creep out, when the old inn blinks drowsy eyes at the cot- 
tages, and they blink back drowsily at the inn, like the old 
friends they are; when distant cows low at gates and 
fences; when sheep-bells tinkle faintly; when the weary 






In which this History is Ended 515 

toiler, seated sideways on his weary horse, fares home- 
wards, nodding sleepily with every plodding hoof-fall, but 
rousing to give one a drowsy " good night," then who can 
resist the somnolent charm of the place, save only the 
" Bull " himself, snorting down in lofty contempt — as 
rolling of eye, as curly of horn, as stiff as to tail as any 
indignant bull ever was, or shall be. 

But as I rode, watching the evening deepen about me, 
soft and clear rose the merry chime of hammer and anvil, 
and, turning aside to the smithy, I paused there, and, 
stooping my head, looked in at the door. 

" George ! " said I. He started erect, and, dropping 
hammer and tongs, came out, running, then stopped sud- 
denly, as one abashed. 

" Oh, friend ! " said I, " don't you know me ? " 

" Why — Peter — " he stammered, and broke off. 

" Have you no greeting for me, George? " 

" Ay, ay — I heerd you was free, Peter, and I was glad 

— glad, because you was the man as I loved, an' I waited 

— ay, I 've been waitin' for 'ee to come back. But now — 
you be so changed — so fine an' grand — an' I be all 
black wi' soot from the fire — oh, man ! ye bean't my Peter 
no more — " 

" Never say that, George — never say that," I cried, 
and, leaping from the saddle, I would have caught his hand 
in mine, but he drew back. 

" You be so fine an' grand, Peter, an' I be all sooty 
from the fire! " he repeated. " I 'd like to just wash my 
'ands first." 

" Oh, Black George ! " said I, " dear George." 

" Be you rich now, Peter? " 

" Yes, I suppose so." 

" A gentleman wi' 'orses an' 'ouses an' servants ? " 

"Well — what of it?" 

" I 'd — like to — wash my 'ands first, if so be you 
don't mind, Peter." 

" George," said I, " don't be a fool ! " Now, as we stood 
thus, fronting each other in the doorway, I heard a light 



5 1 6 The Broad Highway 

step upon the road behind me, and, turning, beheld 
Prudence. 

" Oh, Prue, George is afraid of my clothes, and won't 
shake hands with me ! " For a moment she hesitated, look- 
ing from one to the other of us — then, all at once, laugh- 
ing a little and blushing a little, she leaned forward and 
kissed me. 

" Why, George ! " said she, still blushing, " how fulish 
you be. Mr. Peter were as much a gentleman in his 
leather apron as ever he is in his fine coat — how fulish 
you be, George ! " So proud George gave me his hand, 
all grimy as it was, rejoicing over me because of my good 
fortune and mourning over me because my smithing days 
were over. 

" Ye see, Peter, when men 'as worked together — and 
sorrowed together — an' f ou't together — an' knocked each 
other down — like you an' me — it bean't so easy to say 
* good-by ' — so, if you must leave us — why — don't let 's 
say it." 

" No, George, there shall be no * good-bys ' for either 
one of us, and I shall come back — soon. Until then, take 
my mare — have her made comfortable for me, and no^ 
i — good night — good night ! " 

And so, clasping their loving hands, I turned away, 
somewhat hurriedly, and left them. 

There was no moon, but the night was luminous with 
stars, and, as I strode along, my eyes were often lifted to 
the " wonder of the heavens," and I wondered which par- 
ticular star was Charmian's and which mine. 

Reaching the Hollow, I paused to glance about me, as 
I ever did, before descending that leafy path; and the 
shadows were very black and a chill wind stirred among 
the leaves, so that I shivered, and wondered, for the first 
time, if I had come right — if the cottage had been in 
Charmian's mind when she wrote. 

Then I descended the path, hurrying past a certain 
dark spot. And, coming at last within sight of the cot- 
tage, I paused again, and shivered again, for the windows 



In which this History is Ended 517 

were dark and the door shut. But the latch yielded readily 
beneath my hand, so I went in, and closed and barred the 
door behind me. 

For upon the hearth a fire burned with a dim, red glow 
that filled the place with shadows, and the shadows were 
very deep. 

" Charmian ! " said I, " oh, Charmian, are you there — 
have I guessed right? " I heard a rustle close beside me, 
and, in the gloom, came a hand to meet and clasp my own ; 
wherefore I stooped and kissed those slender fingers, draw- 
ing her into the fireglow; and her eyes were hidden by 
their lashes, and the glow of the fire seemed reflected in 
her cheeks. 

" The candles were so — bright, Peter," she whispered. 

" Yes." 

" And so — when I heard you coming — " 

"You heard me?" 

" I was sitting on the bench outside, Peter." 

" And, when you heard me — you put the candles out? " 

" They seemed so — very bright, Peter." 

"And shut the door?" 

"I only — just — closed it, Peter." She was still 
wrapped in her cloak, as she had been when I first saw her, 
wherefore I put back the hood from her face. And be- 
hold! as I did so, her hair fell down, rippling over my 
arm, and covering us both in its splendor, as it had done 
once before. 

" Indeed — you have glorious hair ! " said I. " It seems 
wonderful to think that you are my wife. I can scarcely 
believe it — even yet ! " 

" Why, I had meant you should marry me from the first, 
Peter." 

" Had you? " 

" Do you think I should ever have come back to this 
dear solitude otherwise? " 

Now, when I would have kissed her, she turned her head 
aside. 

" Peter." 



5 1 8 The Broad Highway 

"Yes, Charmian?" 

" The Lady Sophia Sefton never did gallop her horse 
up the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral." 

"Didn't she, Charmian?" 

" And she could n't help her name being bandied from 
mouth to mouth, or — ' hiccoughed out over slopping 
wineglasses,' could she? " 

" No," said I, frowning ; " what a young fool I was ! " 

" And, Peter — " 

"Well, Charmian?" 

" She never was — and never will be — buxom, or strap- 
ping — will she ? 6 buxom ' is such a — hateful word, Peter ! 
And you — love her? — wait, Peter — as much as ever 
you loved Charmian Brown? " 

" Yes," said I ; " yes — " 

" And — nearly as much as — your dream woman ? " 

" More — much more, because you are the embodiment 
of all my dreams — you always will be Charmian. Be- 
cause I honor you for your intellect ; and worship you for 
your gentleness, and spotless purity ; and love you with 
all my strength for your warm, sweet womanhood; and 
because you are so strong, and beautiful, and proud — " 

"And because, Peter, because I am — just — your lov- 
ing — Humble Person." 

And thus it was I went forth a fool, and toiled and suf- 
fered and loved, and, in the end, got me some little wisdom. 

And thus did I, all unworthy as I am, win the heart of 
a noble woman whose love I pray will endure, even as mine 
will, when we shall have journeyed to the end of this 
Broad Highway, which is Life, and into the mystery of 
the Beyond. 



THE END 



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